Washington state probation counselor makes a difference in girls’ lives

By AFSCME Staff ·

Melanie Kaegi’s work is guided by a simple fact: It takes one caring adult to make a difference in a youth’s world.

A juvenile probation counselor in San Juan County, Washington, Kaegi created a space where young women can get together and offer emotional support to each other.

“One of my biggest, proudest accomplishments is the Girls’ Circle,” Kaegi says. “Every Wednesday, we come together, and we share stories and we listen. These girls show up for each other every single week, and we try to pull in community members, prosocial females in the community, and that creates more of a network of community support for these young ladies.”

Maddy, a participant in the Girls’ Circle, says she is grateful to Kaegi for creating a space where “she really shows up and she allows us to be as human as we want to be, as vulnerable as we want to be.”

Another participant, Sky, says the Girls’ Group provided her support from women who “understood” her.

“I came and I talked to them, and it was the most welcoming, gentle energy I’ve ever experienced,” she says.

For her service to her community, Kaegi, a member of AFSCME Local 1849 (Council 2), is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“She is creating collaborative partnerships with our community,” says Denise Ireland, a legal specialist who knows Kaegi. “She is a bridge builder. And her compassion for what she does, the manner in which she is able to bridge young people, is infectious.”

Kaegi says she is driven by the knowledge that she is making a difference in young women’s lives.

“Watching a youth come to this intrinsic place of, like, ‘I can do that differently,’ that is kind of magical,” she says. “And I can see myself doing this work for the rest of my career … and probably then some.”