Growing up, Donnyette was always the one her friends went to for advice.
“I’ve always been that person who thought I knew everything,” Donnyette says with a smile. “People would come to me, lean on me for advice and I’d tell them what I thought. I always thought I’d be the next Dear Abby or Ann Landers, actually!”
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in her hometown of New Orleans for 18 years, Donnyette has certainly helped many people, particularly children, through her work, even if she hasn’t landed a syndicated newspaper column just yet.
Donnyette’s next challenge is taking her work to the next level by starting a behavioral health agency, strategically named Positive Direction Support Services, LLC.
Throughout her career, Donnyette has worked with people of all ages, but her passion is working with children. Most recently, she has served as a school social worker in the Orleans Parish School District.
Before Hurricane Katrina, she launched a program at her church called Sister to Sister Devotion, which aimed to build self-esteem and peer support among teenage girls. This was Donnyette’s passion for eight years until Hurricane Katrina displaced the group’s membership. The now adult members of the group are still in touch with Donnyette and want to organize a reunion, to re-connect with what they call their “foundation.”
It was the experience from that first entrepreneurial – albeit volunteer – venture that inspired Donnyette to launch her own practice. Positive Direction is engaged in a partnership with the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health to provide counseling and teaching services, clinical assessments and psychiatric evaluations for children in the New Orleans metropolitan area. “I’m responding to a significant need in New Orleans for quality social work services that are offered directly in the community" (in clients’ homes, in schools and other settings such as churches), she says.
While Donnyette’s experience speaks for itself, finding funding for the relatively small amount needed to open her practice was a challenge and she is grateful for the opportunity to receive a loan.
Donnyette plans to hire more social workers as she grows her practice and aims to build the kind of team spirit and commitment that she experienced at some of her past workplaces.
“The kids deserve it; they didn’t ask to have the issues that they have,” she says. “We want to promote hope, healing and wholeness to all the children and their families in [the hope] that it will become infectious throughout our ailing community.”
So while Donnyette is taking on a new business venture and now must focus on the details of the business side as much as directly counseling clients, she maintains the same dedication to helping people that she had as a child.
“I still have that save the world mentality,” she says. “It’s just a little different now.”
About ASI Federal Credit Union
ASI Federal Credit Union has been experiencing an increased rate of defaults. This is possibly related to the experimental nature of the loan products the organization provides. In order to serve asset-poor communities in New Orleans -- including many still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill -- ASI offers loan products designed to help people start and grow businesses even if they don't have extensive collateral, credit histories, or business experience. For these reasons, these loans also carry a higher level of risk than typical loans on Kiva.