At the beginning of the year, the Klamath Chapter of Friends of the Children welcomed a new executive director: Amanda Squibb.
While Squibb might be new to the organization, she is no stranger to Klamath Falls, the local community or working to educate children.
At the end of November 2016, Squibb transitioned into a part-time role as executive director working closely with former executive director Angela Groves to get a feel for the position before becoming full-time on Jan. 1.
Squibb’s background in the arts lended itself to her career as a musical theater performer and teacher in Chicago. While she has a degree in communications, with a focus in theater and a minor in English, she said her professional outlook changed after having children and she decided to focus on education.
Youth and the arts
After moving to Klamath Falls in July 2012 with her husband and two children, Squibb “plunged” into her role as education director at the Ross Ragland Theater, teaching local youth about the arts.
In 2013, through a collaboration with the theater and the Klamath County School District, Squibb and Ross Ragland Executive Director Mark McCrary received funding that they matched with grants to pilot the artisan residence program, “Youth Starts,” in four county schools — Malin, Keno, Ferguson and Henley.
The program has since expanded to every elementary school in the district, except Gilchrist, and local artists go into the schools to teach students about music, arts and drama, which the schools had been lacking for almost two decades, Squibb said.
During her three years as director of education, Squibb worked with Friends of the Children on different occasions through community partnerships, familiarizing herself with the organization, but said the biggest interaction she had was at the “Friendraiser” at Steen Sport Park in June, as she was exposed to the bigger picture.
“I went as a supporter and a guest and that was the first real experience I had hearing the story and getting a better picture of the day-to-day operation,” she said.
When the position for executive director opened up, Squibb applied.
As Squibb familiarizes herself with her new role, she said she doesn’t intend to make any immediate changes and praises former executive director Groves on her “incredible job of leading the organization forward and realizing the potential we weren’t sure was possible.”
Only rural site
Friends of the Children is a national organization with sites in various cities, such as Boston, Seattle and Portland. The Klamath Chapter, which began in 2000, is the only rural site within the organization. Squibb intends to lead Friends of the Children forward by participating in the national conversations and focusing on having more chapters in rural America.
“I think it’s a transformative program,” she said. “When you look at these children potentially facing the most risk, who can come in [to Friends of the Children] and for them to consistently have a friendship with an adult mentor, the impact is great.”
By helping one child at a time realize and believe their full potential, Squibb said the results are “outstanding.” The graduation rates have increased, there are no teen pregnancies and no children going to juvenile detention centers.
“They are worthy and deserving and fully capable of moving mountains,” she said.
Squibb credits Groves for bringing the Klamath Chapter so far during her three and a half years as executive director.
First executive director
Groves started at Friends of the Children as a board member in fall 2012, taking on the role of the first executive director in July 2013, following funding from three donors, which brought the executive director to a full-time position.
“I could see the value of the position as a board member,” Groves said. “There was potential.”
Prior to 2012, Grove was a stay-at-home mother for six years. She applied for the “part-time” position of executive director, which later transformed into a full-time career.
“It has been really rewarding and worth every bit of it,” she said. “We are serving more kids and have doubled the numbers. With that growth comes greater financial stability, organizational structure and the basic framework for sustainable growth.”
Groves is confident in Squibb’s ability to carry the organization forward, stating, “Amanda really has a desire to better the community and to work with kids. I could see a lot of the same passion and excitement that has made me a successful executive director in her. She has all the skills to continue forward and won’t lose momentum and will continue to grow.”
Groves and her family are aligning their plans so when her husband has the opportunity to promote with a company out of town, they will be ready for that, she said, whenever or wherever it may take them.
“No matter where I end up, I hope to expand the program and continue to be a voice for ‘Friends’,” she said. “It is beneficial for every community across the nation.”