As the Girls’ House Director, Erikka Dunn’s leadership and therapeutic residential treatment experience combines perfectly with her passion for helping teen girls grow into confident, independent young women.
Erikka began at Shelterwood as a Residential Manager in July and began her new position in September. She was drawn to Shelterwood by its commitment to transforming lives and restoring families. “I thought it was remarkable, the work that was being done here,” says Erikka. “It is amazing how the parents are involved in the process.”
Her path to Shelterwood: Erikka is a Kansas City native who has a BA in Religious Studies from Fairfield University in Connecticut and an MA from the University of London in the United Kingdom.
Her experience with the Boys & Girls Club of America as an AmeriCorps volunteer sparked her interest in a career working with youth. She pursued this path as the Director of Children and Youth at a Methodist congregation before becoming a therapeutic residential treatment counselor with teen girls in Los Angeles.
“It just became a passion for me,” Erikka explains. “There is something about those moments where all it takes is a dance party to lift the spirits of someone. All those fun, teen-girl things raised the stakes for me.”
Her new role here: As the Girls’ House Director, Erikka leads a team of residential managers and mentors. Together, they empower young women with intentional relationships, inspiring activities and consistent support. Erikka puts a special emphasis on developing strong relationships.
“We want them to think about self and identity in a way that allows them to examine how they connect with others,” Erikka says.
Erikka hopes these young women realize their time here is a season in their lives—a transition and a time for growth. “They have so much life to live, but they just need to do the work and invest in themselves during this season.” Erikka says.
A global perspective: Erikka’s life has taken her around the world. (She has even served as a Goodwill Ambassador to the Republic of Gambia, West Africa). Her travels and diverse experiences have prepared her to help her clients take an expansive, adventurous view of life.
“I find that I am more open to their explorations of self—and what that means for them regarding faith and their general direction in life,” Erikka explains. “I think it is important to establish your own relationship with God, so I really want to encourage them to be independent thinkers and find their own way.”
A common struggle: Erikka’s passion for encouraging young women comes from her own early insecurities. As a teenager, she had trouble forming her own identity and figuring out her unique place in the world. It took her some time to assert her independence, especially as she transitioned out of high school and into college.
“It was a challenge for me to say this is who I am and accept who that person was,” Erikka shares. “It really is a heart project for me to work with these girls.”
Her favorite thing: Erikka says the best part of her job is finding creative solutions to behavioral challenges with innovative assignments and thought-provoking questions.
“Finding creative ways to deal with crises and challenges has been really quite exciting,” she reports.
She also enjoys encouraging her staff. “I spend a lot of time pouring into them, speaking about faith with them, and talking about self-care,” Erikka smiles.
In fact, one of the things Erikka likes most about Shelterwood is the way the staff collaborates. She says the mentors who live here have work-life-balance issues people with 9-to-5 jobs do not experience. She admires their commitment to helping each other handle crises and maintain good boundaries in what can be an all-consuming job.
Beyond Shelterwood: Erikka is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership through The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is also a proud aunt who loves spending time with her four-year-old nephew. Erikka is close with her “wonderful” family, which is full of gospel musicians. When she has extra time, she spends it singing worship music, traveling and mentoring.
Get to know more of Shelterwood’s caring staff and its life-changing approach to residential treatment.