MPA graduate transitions from tornado relief work to Success by 6 Program Management

Within eight months of a tornado leveling the house of Andrea Bowers, the Master of Public Administration graduate was asked to be a part of a sub-committee project developing a resource book for disaster victims from a survivor’s perspective.

MPA graduate Andrea Bowers and her family. Photo courtesy of Bowers

Her position within the Success by 6 program led for her to become manager of the same organization’s early childhood initiative by the Heart of Illinois United Way in Peoria.

Bowers said she loves her position so far and is looking forward to growing the program.

“I am very passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families,” Bowers said. “Just the simple act of caring can make a world of difference in the lives of others, especially children.”

She added that the position is the perfect platform for her to use her previous experience and education in early childhood to provide a better start for children in the community.

According to its website, Success by 6® was launched in 2006 and “is an early childhood education initiative that provides knowledge about opportunities for early learning and pre-literacy skill development. Success By 6® is led by a community-based team of business leaders, educators and child advocates who strive to guarantee at-risk children age birth to six are healthy, safe, nurtured and ready to succeed.”

The program, according to Bowers, serves six counties in central IL, distributes 30,000 books free of charge to students that qualify in 14 different agencies and is preparing school calendars for 25,000 families.

Bowers said the MPA program provided her with a deeper understanding of non-profit organizations, allowed her to better serve the community and grow as a professional.

“The MPA program has helped me become a more well-rounded individual and given me the skills I feel are necessary to be an effective and impactful leader,” Bowers said.

She added that the knowledge base helped her to be more confident in public speaking and engage the community to get the message across.

Bowers worked as a teacher at St. Clair County Head Start while earning her MPA. After graduating, she worked in Peoria as a Health Educator/Early Childhood Program Coordinator at the Hult-Center for Healthy Living.

When the tornado struck Washington, IL, in 2013, Bowers, her husband and their newborn daughter were buried in their basement and lost everything, but, according to she, they were blessed as a family to have survived.

“We were just numbed,” Bowers said. “When you go through something like it, all you can do to take from it is that we survived. Learn to live each day as it comes.”

The book created to assist tornado victims titled, Rebuilding Hope After a Natural Disaster, was funded by the Heart of Illinois United Way and Bowers said she feels fortunate to be a part of the relief effort.

That’s a very exciting project and I’m honored to be a part of something that will help with other families in the future,” Bowers said.

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