Founder & Executive Director, In Her Shoes Foundation
In Her Shoes Foundation (IHSF) began as the Positive Girls Club in 2008 as a forum for women of all ages to build strong individual and community relationships in the Chicagoland area.
In 2011 the Club was formalized and it became In Her Shoes Foundation (IHSF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Today, through our Professional Development Program, Giving Back initiative and our flagship program, Ready Set Girls Academy, we strive to create a nurturing and positive environment for women and girls of all backgrounds to empower and inspire them to be their personal best.
Today, IHSF has over 60 committee voluntees and an executive team of committee chairs working in close collaboration to deliver the Foundation’s programs in the local community. Find out more here.
Kasia Wereszczynska, MA, LCPC, RYT, co-founded and is clinical director of counseling speaks, LLC, a multicultural group practice serving the Chicago metropolitan. She has an extensive training and 15+ years’ experience in crisis intervention, cognitive-behavioral therapy and positive psychology. She has provided counseling to a culturally diverse population serving the South Side of Chicago and the North Shore area. She has a history of working in various settings including the mental health court system, hospital emergency rooms, community mental health agencies, schools and both inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital settings. Wereszczynska graduated with her Master’s from the Illinois School of Psychology and serves on the Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) International Counselor Community Engagement Committee, Illinois Diversity in Leadership Task Force Committee, and the Argosy University Counselor Education Advisory Board. She is past President of both the Chicago Counseling Association (CCA) and the Illinois Association of Multicultural Counseling (IAMC). In addition, she teaches psychology classes at the University of St. Francis and Oakton Community College.
Within and among the aforementioned roles, Ms. Wereszczynska has received due recognition. In late 2017 she received the Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Service to Mental Health Counseling as a Profession awarded by the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association. In early 2017, she earned the Women You Should Know Award via She Rocks It, an organization that celebrates women leaders. In 2016 she was nominated for the Beauty Inside Out Reflection Award, which “celebrate(s) and honor(s) the life-changing and life- affirming contributions and success of beautiful women everywhere”. In 2015 she received the University of St. Francis College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Award due to her contributions in the counseling and psychology field. In 2014 she received the Women Who Change the World award, namely for her work with In Her Shoes Foundation. And in 2013 she received the Leading Ladies International Award, noting her efforts toward educating and empowering multicultural individuals.
She is an international speaker with noted presentations in the US, Poland, Italy, Canada, Switzerland and Hungary, based on her areas of expertise: “Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout-The Cost of Caring” and “Rising above: A multicultural approach to mentoring women towards successful careers in counseling and psychology.” She is the founder of In Her Shoes Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that brings together women of all ages and backgrounds to inspire, connect, educate and support the development and maintenance of a healthy and positive lifestyle.
Kasia’s passion in life, giving hope to others, is what she has done throughout her years of experience as a crisis worker on the Southside of Chicago, which led to her founding of In Her Shoes Foundation. Hope is the most important thing in the world. It allows people to still see the light when they are so shackled in darkness. Accordingly, the vision of the foundation is to provide women and girls with the tools necessary to live a positive and healthy lifestyle, which led toward an initiative that fostered monthly professional development workshops, after-school mentor programs, group retreats, and group volunteer community events. Not only does the foundation provide hope for those who participate in its activities, it provides hope to all the volunteers–allowing each one to see that their actions truly do make a difference. As such, In Her Shoes Foundation brings together women of all ages and backgrounds to inspire, connect, educate and support the development and maintenance of a healthy and positive lifestyle.
Through In Her Shoes Foundation those involved continually lift up and support one another every day. They are an anchor and inspiration. They keep one another going and on course to their dreams to make this world a better place than when they first entered into it. Their drive and dedication manifests itself with a delightful manner that is key in working with a wide variety of personalities and situations. Without their dedication, this work would never be possible.
As a young crisis worker supporting young girls and women on the south-side of Chicago, I saw the impact I could make at a very local level by fostering positivity, hope and empowerment in these underserved communities. These experiences led me to expand on the mission of In Her Shoes Foundation, and we’ve been trying to keep up with the need ever since. Over 10 years later, we now have over 60 volunteers and are making a real difference in lives of these young girls who are enrolled in our programs. It is what keeps me going and it is the most fulfilling and humbling work I’ve ever done.
I have always been drawn to helping people. Volunteerism is in my DNA. My parents were always giving and helping others, even when they faced their own struggles. Initially I thought that I would be a nurse, after working for an internal medicine practice, I realized that people where not getting their emotional needs met and the physical problems typically originated from something deeper. I want to go deeper and understand the root cause of why people are the way they are. I then studied psychology and counseling. After spending 15+ years in crisis intervention, cognitive-behavioral therapy and positive psychology, I saw so many people in crisis, especially young girls and wanted to be able to make a greater impact. With the help of many volunteers, we created the Ready Set Girls Academy, a program that builds young girls’ self-esteem and confidence.
An exciting trend we’re seeing is more young people wanting to get involved in community organizations and volunteering. It’s heartwarming to see but also imperative that the foundation continues to create awareness to capitalize on that opportunity.
One interesting business-related shift that continues to evolve is the role data analytics now plays in the non-profit space. We are now able to see who engages with our foundation, what actions are they taking and how to turn that knowledge into additional revenue and awareness for our mission.
Running a non-profit, especially one that is staffed completely by volunteers certainly has its unique challenges. However, many of our biggest opportunities are basic business fundamentals. How to drive revenue, awareness, attracting and retaining talent. All key areas of focus in building an organization, regardless of size or scale. It’s challenging to see how so many businesses deal with high turnover amongst their employees who get paid. Now imagine keeping people inspired and motivated without any financial gain, things like accountability and smooth transitions when we think of volunteer management.
After spending 15 years supporting so many families, especially young women in crisis, I wanted to be a part of creating a long-term solution, that could help transform lives. I wanted to take a step back and really focus on the root cause of issues that so many young women face. Let’s look at the triggers and see how we can make new patterns and behaviors that create long-term change. My vision is to provide resources for professional development, education, leadership, positive examples, and community. Simple ideas that can create lasting change and transform lives. When we build the confidence of young girls, we build communities and make them stronger. This is an exceptionally exciting time for women to step up and be anything that they’ve ever wanted be…
We are looking for strategic partners that can help expand our mission. To grow and help more communities, we need to be able to expand our network and reach. By partnering with corporate businesses and community partners, we will be able to reach an expanded audience of like-minded groups and individuals.
We’d like to be able to be able to pair our mission with a corporate or retail partners, utilizing their scale and influence to increase revenue and awareness. At the end of the day, we’re here to make a difference. The more donations we can generate, the more lives will be impacted.
Without sounding cliché, I always try to be positive. In my words and in my actions. It matters and people remember how you made them feel. I’m also human and have my own weaknesses, but I do my best to stay mindful and understanding what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes.
Inspire and encourage. Bring people together.
Being authentic and myself, even when it’s hard. Working the overnight shift as a crisis counselor for so many years, gave me skills and courage that has forever changed my life.
I want to make a difference in the lives of others. And to have a little more balance in my own life. I realized that when I am rested and centered, I have more energy to give to others. It is truly in giving and helping others that makes me feel most joy. I would also like to have my own children one day. I’ve spent endless nights working with foster children, I am starting to feel the calling to have my own.
Giving hope to people. To me, hope is the most important thing in the world. Anything is possible with hope. It’s been a true privilege to work so closely with individuals who have been in crisis. My colleagues have told me that I can walk into the darkest room and light it up. I hope that will never fade.
I love anywhere warm. You name the beach, and I’ll meet you there.
Yoga and Riding horses, it helps keep me balanced and grateful.
What should everyone try at least once?
Ten years ago, I would have said, Travel alone. Travelling solo teaches us a lot about ourselves. And we will also meet plenty of interesting people and have a lot of unique experiences along the way. These days, I say give counseling a chance. Try it once and see how it can change your life. I wish that every child was required to go to therapy. It would make us better adults.
A Day in My Life:
Every day is unique. From providing counseling sessions in private practice to teaching psychology at the college and somewhere in between all of that —-spending time with my husband, family and friends and daily volunteering for In Her Shoes Foundation.
What do you love most about Your City?
The diversity. Different neighborhoods, restaurants, events, people. In Chicago, there is always something interesting to see, eat or explore.