Meet Kathryn

It’s the end of an era. On June 28, 2019  it will be Kathryn Douglass’ last day at Covenant House Michigan. For over 19 years she’s made  her mark on our Detroit campus and molded our day programming – Total Me Zone (TMZ) to be the highly effective model it is today.

Ms. Douglass or “Mama D” as she’s informally known to our residents, is Covenant House Michigan’s Program Development, Clinical Manager and Ombudsman. She manages around 25 interns over the course of the year providing hundreds of hours of life skills training and therapeutic circles.

Ms. Douglass is a native Detroiter with her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University in Psychology and a Masters of Social Work from Wayne State University. Her mother was an educator and her father was a minister, so going to school and being involved in the community is  a large focus in her life.

“I’m very lucky to have two supportive parents who had their college degrees, so getting educated and being involved in community development was always a focal point,” said Douglass.

Her career took off from there with time spent in mental health services when society was deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill. She worked in community-based homes and specialized in rebuilding family bonds with her seriously mentally ill patients. From there she spent time working with mentally disabled people at Greater Detroit Life and also worked at Wayne County Mental Health Authority, Northeast Guidance Center and Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO).

She was contacted by Covenant House Michigan when we were a drop-in center at our first location on Seminole St. in Detroit. It was a couple of miles from where Douglass lived and with children at home, Douglass wanted to be close by. She was the Manager of the Drop-In center and eventually expanded to leading our charter schools as they opened up.

When the opportunity opened up for a Quality Assurance position at CHM, Douglass jumped at the chance. She wanted to make sure we were delivering on the program goals we set for our residents and  from there it became obvious we needed wrap-around programs to best suit our residents.

At first, it was our Resident Advisors (RAs) that helped deliver this programming, but quickly, that became too much for them to teach and be RAs. Ms. Douglass explored the community around her to make a connection with local universities to have their students complete their clinical fieldwork at Covenant House Michigan and they can teach the day programming as a part of their education. Thus Total Me Zone (TMZ) as we know it today was born.

“Many of our young people missed the lessons in life and the opportunities to dream about who they would really like to be. We wanted to take creative opportunities to help our residents figure that out,” said Ms. Douglass.

TMZ runs in five-week cycles from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm four days a week with classes running about 45 minutes per period. The sixth week is a break in programming for residents to practice the skills they have worked on in the previous five weeks.

There are all types of programs taught, driven by the interest of the interns teaching them.  Everything from etiquette, budgeting, workplace behavior to therapeutic circles to teach residents healthy coping skills and conflict de-escalation.

“We have many community partners that help to bring important programming to our residents. They are instrumental in providing technology, yoga sessions,  photography, health and nutrition, money management, spiritual support and so much more,” Ms. Douglass explains. “TMZ stands for a Total Mind Body Spirit and it takes the entire community to make this happen; and that includes every staff, every board member and the entire community with one experience at a time.”

After these 19 bright years, Ms. Douglass is excited to formally retire from her position. But have no fear, TMZ will exist after her retirement. Contingency plans are in place to continue this strong program for our residents.

Ms. Douglass can’t imagine her life without helping others, even as this chapter comes to a close. She is taking a class to become a Life Celebrant, a trained professional who creates ceremonies for every occasion of life – marriages, baptism, graduation parties, retirement parties and more. After her retirement, she plans to start a side business “Celebrations by Ryn” – Ryn being the latter half of her name and this being the latter part of her career to help people celebrate all facets of life.