Sheila-Employee Spotlight-Horizons For Homeless Children
Life at Horizons

Employee Spotlight Sheila

Sheila-Employee Spotlight-Horizons For Homeless Children

Sheila Restrepo
Family Advocate

Describe the day in the life of your role at Horizons.
A normal day doesn’t really exist for me. A big part of what I do is goal setting with parents. We follow their lead with goals and they pick what they think is important for them to work on. For example, one mother’s goal is to get her license, so I help her to break down the goal into smaller steps. Together we find out the information and plan of action. When are you going to schedule the road test? What are the costs? What information do you need to know? Each step is attached with an incentive, or a little reward they give themselves for completing it. For example, if the mom schedules her road test, maybe she could go for a walk in the arboretum or go out to eat. At the end, when they achieve their goal, they get a small gift card to Target or Stop & Shop.

I also help parents with different training, either inside or outside the agency.  Additionally, there are team meetings we do with teachers to discuss children’s progress and any areas of concern. We do referrals for different agencies such as Early Intervention, Dress for Success, and GED or ESOL programs.

What do you like most about working at Horizons?
Definitely the mission. It’s what’s kept me here for so long. I love going home and knowing I was able to support even one family and make a difference. Helping them on their path and in their struggles is very important to me. 

What’s a goal you hope to accomplish while at Horizons?
We did a workshop on motivational interviewing, and I want to keep reminding myself to use this strategy. It’s a powerful tool to help reach the parents and get them to open up. Instead of using open-ended questions with a yes or no answer, motivational interviewing focuses on building off statements and opening up. If a parent shares a story about the night before, I might respond by saying, “Well tell me more.” It encourages parents to share more because when they open up, I am able to better support them and share out to others.

Why do you think people should support Horizons?
Well, I can speak from my own experience. I became homeless with my three children. My youngest was only 2 years old. I know what the parents are going through. Sometimes a parent will tell me, “You don’t know how hard it is.” I don’t usually share my past with them, but in this case, I will tell them, “Actually I do.”

I saw how homelessness effects young children and triggers behaviors. I saw my son start biting when he had never done that before. When we moved back into a home, it stopped. Our children are at risk by the sheer factor that they are homeless. 

I only had a case worker when I was homeless. I wish I had had resources like Horizons to help my children and support me as well.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?
When I was in 1st and 2nd grade in Puerto Rico, my teacher, Ms. Gomez, and I really latched onto each other. Every year she would ask my dad if I could spend the summer with her and her husband who was a police officer. I will never forget those summers and Ms. Gomez. She took me under her wing. It’s something I’ve never forgotten. It was such a sweet time.

What was your favorite learning activity growing up?
I liked “house” play with my friends and sister. We would play teacher and student and write on the board, give tests and grade them. I probably enjoyed this so much because I looked up to my teacher and I wanted to be like her.


Horizons for Homeless Children’s passionate employees embody the Horizons’ mission every day in a vast array of ways. The Horizons’ staff is uniquely specialized in several areas to serve to the needs of young homeless children and their families. To join our team, check out our career opportunities!

by Maggie Cunha, Marketing & Development Intern
Published on January 11, 2018