Employee Spotlight: Chezia Calloway, Berryville Executive Director

Chezia Calloway recently rejoined Grafton as Berryville’s new Executive Director. In this role, Chezia is responsible for, among other things, ensuring quality programming and anticipating the needs of our community. We are so glad to have her back with the organization! Get to know Chezia in the following employee spotlight.

You worked with Grafton years ago, and now you’ve rejoined the organization as Executive Director of the Psychiatric Residential Treatment Programs. What was your previous role and what brought you back?

I was previously the Supervisor of Instruction with Grafton for two years. I loved my time here, but I was given the opportunity to lead the acquisition and opening of a new special education nonpublic school, which is why I left. Since then I’ve been a Principal, Director of Education, Director of Educational Services, Education Program Specialist and Executive Director of Special Education with various organizations in Maryland and Georgia. This opportunity to be the Executive Director at the Berryville campus and rejoin Grafton was very appealing to me because I have always been a fan and supporter of its mission. 

Why did you originally want to work in behavioral healthcare?

When I first started my career in 1994, I had just graduated from college to become a physical education and health teacher. My typical classes had 35 students, which is a high ratio. I had some special needs students who were in the general education setting, and it became very clear that it was difficult to meet their needs along with teaching all the other students. This made me want to focus more of my efforts on the children with special needs. So I went back to school and got a master’s degree in special education. Once I completed that program, I sought out a position in a residential treatment center. I really wanted to work in an environment that was for students with various disabilities and mental health needs. 

Why are Grafton’s clients unique?

Many of the clients Grafton serves have been placed with other facilities in the past without much success. They have been failed by so many places, yet they are still resilient enough for someone to be able to help them. Many of them really are some of the most challenging and complicated youth and yet Grafton is able to help them because of our level of dedication and commitment to determining what success means for each client.

What makes Grafton a special place to work?

The individuals who work at Grafton are truly dedicated and want to serve others, and when you’re around that type of mentality it creates a constant, nurturing environment. People feed off each other’s warm spirit and that environment continues to grow. There are difficult days, but our staff members are happy and enjoy working with the children despite any challenges.

What makes Grafton’s approach person-centered?

When a client first comes to Grafton, we look at their current challenges, take the opportunity to get to know them well and determine what they will need in order to be successful. We accomplish this client-centered approach because everyone on our team thinks outside the box and designs treatment plans specifically for each individual. The Grafton mindset is geared towards that. Our team continues meeting regularly, brainstorming, trying different methods and discussing progress. We also engage parents, families, the client and the appropriate agencies on an ongoing basis.

What does utilizing a trauma informed approach mean to you?

To me it means understanding that everybody has experienced trauma at different levels, and to be successful you must understand the specific trauma for each individual and determine how to best respond to it. Coming from that approach makes us more compassionate, more invested in solutions and the most helpful. We are able to give our clients hope that there’s still a chance to come out on the other side of trauma healthier, better able to cope and more resilient.

Do you have a favorite story from your time at Grafton?

Actually, I have two. When I worked for Grafton earlier in my career, there was a father who was very reluctant to let his daughter go from a public school to a non-public school setting. She was seven, had autism and was almost completely nonverbal. She was only able to use a little bit of sign language. Eventually he gave Grafton a chance, but was very angry and frustrated and didn’t believe it would help. After his daughter had been with Grafton for a while, he had the chance to come and observe her in the classroom observation room. He was really amazed by her success. Not only had she learned more sign language, but her speech pathologist, teachers and other staff had helped to improve her language so she was much more verbal.

More recently, a female client in our Berryville facility told me she would really like a keepsake box to put some special things in such as letters for her mom, etc. So I went to the craft store and bought decorative boxes for her and all girls in her dorm. She was so excited knowing she was getting a box, but she didn’t know I was getting them for everyone. When I handed them out, I told everyone it was her idea. She was so happy and had a lot of pride that she had helped others to organize their things.

What would you say to someone who is considering working at Grafton?

Well first of all, your day will never be boring or predictable. Every day there’s something new to experience. You’ll have the opportunity to work with children and adults who have challenges and help them to be successful. There is no more rewarding work. And there are many areas and opportunities to get involved with – treatment, recreation, activities, medical and the education/academic model – all in one place.

What would you say to a family considering Grafton for loved one?

We recognize that it is a very difficult decision to trust strangers for treatment when so much is unknown. That’s why we partner with you to make sure they get everything they need both when they’re with us and for when they transition back home or into the community. There is real hope for your child or family member to improve, but it takes trust. We honor the responsibility of having your trust and your family member in our care. We want you to feel encouraged and hopeful about the future by making the process easier for you.