Jenell Tune and her father take their surname to heart. One of their favorite hobbies is singing karaoke together, and Jenell’s favorite performance by her father is Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. Her attachment to that song has never wavered, and the parallels between the lyrics and her own life are uncanny.
I've lived a life that's full. I traveled each and every highway.
I don’t think you would get much of an argument describing Jenell’s still young life as full. While Jenell hasn’t quite been down EVERY highway, she’s doing her best. As a traveler, Jenell has already been all over the world, and before COVID-19 she had plans to see Columbia, South Africa, Belize and Europe in the next two years, but her favorite trip so far was to Dubai. Jenell really embraced the culture while she was there. She visited the Abu Dhabi mosque and prayed with the locals, she ate the local foods and even dressed in their attire. Every trip she takes is a learning experience. Every time she leaves the country, she gains new perspective and learns new lessons about herself and how to best help the young adults that have been entrusted to her care.
I planned each charted course. Each careful step along the byway.
Jenell has always been a planner. Not only has she planed all those adventurous trips throughout her life, but she has always had a plan for her career. As with most people, that plan has been adjusted as her life has changed. Early on, Jenell planned on becoming a Pediatrician. She has always loved children, so the idea of helping them came naturally to her.
The first time she changed her plans was when her oldest brother was diagnosed with a mental illness after being in and out of jail for various bizarre crimes and behaviors. She saw the clear gap in medical help due to the lack of resources in the Virgin Islands for mental health patients. She decided she wanted to help make a difference amidst the growing mental health crisis. Thus, she decided to attend Georgia State University for her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Psychology. She wanted to help prisoners during their incarceration and after they left jail and entered halfway houses.
It wasn’t long before Jenell’s plans changed again. She began thinking about “the cycle” and how she could have a greater impact. A lot of people’s plans to change the world involve going back in time and making a change in history. Well Jenell’s plan was similar, just without the science fiction aspect of a time machine. What if instead of going back in time she could make a difference in someone’s life before they made the wrong choice. Before prison. Before the halfway house. Jenell’s new plan was to mentor youth and help advise them to make the best decisions now, so they wouldn’t end up incarcerated later.
With a new plan, Jenell returned to school. This time attending Argosy University and obtaining her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling/Family and Marriage Therapy. Jenell could relate to broken families, having come from one herself. She quickly focused on helping teens because she knew the struggle of growing up with a single mother working and going to school, and a father who struggled with substance abuse. Her own journey as a teenager wasn’t ideal. She didn’t go straight to college following high school, despite her parent’s encouragement to pursue higher education. They wanted her to make wiser choices to avoid making the same mistakes they had, but she strayed at times. Sometimes the road can seem so clear yet so difficult, which helps Jenell relate to the young adults in her care who may need someone to help guide them through life. Having overcame his addiction, she can remember her father always saying with great personal meaning, “Never give up”. She also admires her mother’s strength and resilience to provide the best life for Jenell that she could with what little resources she had. Jenell attributes these strong character traits to who she has become today.
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew. When I bit off more than I could chew. And through it all, when there was doubt. I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall.
Jenell’s plans changed a lot over the years, but the biggest takeaway was that she always had one. To say Jenell has “faced it all” might be a slight overstatement, but not much. Her life wasn’t easy. Her support system wasn’t the strongest. Her family life was difficult. It took time, determination, and yes, careful planning to get to where she is today. If there’s one thing you can’t deny, it’s that she has “stood tall”. Jenell continues to be a leader in all things. Her confidence and perseverance are among her greatest traits, and at just 36, she’s already reached altitudes in her career many will never obtain.
I've loved, I've laughed and cried. I've had my fill; my share of losing.
Nobody ever said a career in social work was easy. While love and laughter are abundant, tears can be too at times. Jenell has poured her heart into her work, and as a result, has made a lasting impact in the lives of countless young adults. It can be difficult sometimes, and the work isn’t for everyone. Someone with a weaker will or less resolve than Jenell may have given it up a long time ago. Not Jenell. She knows why she’s doing what she’s doing. She’s passionate about her work and driven by a purpose. She has seen the monumental difference she and her colleagues can make in a young person’s life, and that makes all the emotions worth it. She takes it one day at a time and understands that if she can make a difference in one person’s life today, it’s a step closer to changing the lives of many tomorrow.
The record shows I took all the blows. And did it my way.
In the process of changing lives, Jenell has certainly taken some blows. None have slowed her down. She has been a leader since her first day with Necco, and as the earlier verse said, she has always “stood tall”. Leadership seems to come naturally to her. In just five years with the company, Jenell has moved from an Independent Living Life Coach, to the Independent Living Program Director, to the Regional Director of Foster Care and Independent Living and now she is the State Regional Director for Independent Living overseeing the entire IL program for the state of Georgia. Of course, she has done it all her way. That’s actually one of her favorite aspects to working at Necco. The company embraces individuality and meritocracy which enables her to do things her way.
And now, the end is near. And so I face the final curtain.
The end is only near for this article. For Jenell, she will continue living her life in the words of Sinatra, and her future is as bright as the ones she is working tirelessly to build for the young adults in her Independent Living Program. Click here to learn more about Necco’s Independent Living Program.
Hometown: St. Thomas, USVI
Necco Awards: Humble Hungry Smart (2018), When Opportunities Knock (2018), Coaching (2018), Evolv Super User (2019)
College: Georgia State University B.A. Psychology, Argosy University M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling/Family and Marriage Therapy
Hobbies: Karaoke, traveling abroad and chess