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Get to Know: Placement Specialist Nichole Bourke

Nichole Bourke has worked as a Placement Specialist for Nonotuck Resource Associates since 2015, and served as the co-chair of Nonotuck’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion {DEI} committee since its inception in 2020. She lives in Springfield with her two daughters and husband.

Nichole and committee co-chair Jannelle Robinson were recently honored for their work leading the committee by the Association of Developmental Disability Providers (ADDP).

What did you do before coming to Nonotuck?

I was a teacher, I used to teach in the Springfield public school; I taught English as a second language, and worked with kids who had disabilities as well.

What attracted you to Nonotuck?

One thing I liked about Nonotuck was its shared living model. I thought it was unique, and very important. It gives people a chance to live a “normal life,”  giving them independence. 

Also Nonotuck’s values: mutuality of respect, authenticity, vulnerability, values that help shape and mold people.

What does a placement specialist do?

So my job as a Placement Specialist is to recruit and screen applicants who want to become Share Living Providers.  I also work closely with the Program Director and Clinicians to help facilitate the matching process for people who have been referred to our agency.   

What is a day in the life of a placement specialist like?

A day in the life of a Placement Specialist would be qualifying applicants, conducting interviews and home studies, reference checks, sometimes home inspections and maintaining an ongoing list of qualified applicants.  

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is connecting and forming meaningful relationships with people, Share Living Providers and the people we serve.  

You were recently honored for your work on Nonotuck’s DEI Committee. What do you think is unique about Nonotuck’s approach to DEI? 

I think Nonotuck’s approach to DEI is unique because we take time out to put emphasis on experiences from different cultures and backgrounds to the agency, which in return gives people a chance to gain different perspectives they may not have had prior to knowing someone.  We also take time out to have discussions that further foster understanding.  In doing so, it creates a positive and inclusive work environment.

Why do you think the work of the committee is important? 

This work is important because people need to feel understood and people need understanding.  To me, that is the only way change will occur.  

Why is working on the DEI committee rewarding to you?  

This is rewarding because I am able to witness results from a conversation.  It feels good to be able to be a voice for people who are not vocal or afraid to share how they feel about being different and wanting to be accepted.   

What is it about you that makes you a good co-chair for the committee?

I think I make a good co-chair for the committee because I am innovative.  I am also receptive to people’s perspectives and am very understanding.

What have you learned {from co-chairing the committee}? 

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion or perspective about anything. When you don’t do that, you can be left with animosity, and things like that. You never know what a person’s perspective is,  {the committee allows us to}clear up perspectives. And it’s an opportunity to teach people; educating people is the most important part of it all.

What was your reaction to earning the ADDP award?  

My reaction to winning the reward at first was extremely excited and equally humble.  

What are your hobbies outside of work?
My hobbies outside of work would include podcasting with friends on hip hop culture.  We review albums and discuss nostalgic songs.  We also speak about current pop culture. 

What’s your secret talent?

My secret talent is interior decorating. My friends and family call me all the time for designs for their homes.  I love to watch HGTV!  

What’s one piece of media (book, movie, song, album, whatever) that you would recommend to someone and why?

I would recommend Kendrick Lamar’s album “goodkid m.A.A.d. City” because the album is his documentary of self-journey as a teenaged black kid growing up in Compton.  I would recommend this album because it’s the perfect balance of storytelling, lyricism, and production.  Beware before listening though because it does have explicit lyrics. 

If you are interested in joining the committee, please email committee co-chairs Jannelle Robinson (robinson@nonotuck.com) and Nichole Bourke (bourke@nonotuck.com). 

“(Through shared living) people with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.”

Caregiving with Love:
Guide for Shared Living Providers

Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.

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