It is a well-known sentiment that children are our future. They hold the fate of our world in their hands, and it is not only our responsibility to give them the tools and knowledge to succeed, but it is truly in our own best interests to do so, since they will take over as leaders once we are gone.
Doing her part to ensure the success of future generations is Elena Dwyre, CEO of Campagna Academy in Schererville, Indiana.
A long-standing institution in Northwest Indiana, Campagna Academy is a residential treatment facility which offers various group-home treatment levels for youths. They are a licensed childcare placing agency or LCPA and recruit and license foster homes and have their own foster care agency. They operate a day-treatment program where youths participate in-home within their own community and come to Campagna for schooling and treatment. Ages range from 10 to 18 and foster care from birth to 18 or 21.
“I think anyone who is a CEO or who serves in a top position would tell you that they didn’t get to that position overnight,” said Dwyre, and she’s certainly no exception to that rule.
“I think that one of the nice things for me was that, prior to reaching Campagna, I worked in other positions which allowed me to see the other side of social services. When Campagna approached me, I felt it was such a refreshing opportunity to work for a not-for-profit, bringing my experience that I had gained working for other large corporations. It was a really neat thing to see a not-for-profit have the opportunity to invest in the community, to continue to grow.”
Dwyre says that Campagna went through a bit of a transformation over the last few years.
“We were struggling financially,” said Dwyre. “The state had made a lot of changes that impacted us significantly. They were shifting their funding to other types of programs that were not just residential care. At that time, residential care was our focus and we were actually bankrupt and considering closing our doors at the time,” said Dwyre.
Like the path to her position as CEO, the change to Campagna and to the system which it served was a long road.
“It took a lot of educating the court system. Educating the juvenile justice system was in the best interest of children and their families to keep them close to home and in their own communities. That alone was a significant difference and it is an ongoing process,” said Dwyre.
“We have to be constantly working with our juvenile justice system, with our judicial system, with law enforcement, with the Department of Children and Family Services. This is a team that needs to understand what ‘at-risk’ youth means, what these children need, what their families need. We need to learn to integrate and see them as the children that they really are. It’s been a wonderful shift from then to where we are at now, and what matters most is that the children benefited from that.”
Dwyre says that the key to Campagna’s success was diversification.
“We diversified in programs. We are now the only agency that provides residential care to children with disabilities. We are the only facility certified to do that. We expanded day treatment, we also diversified funding. We brought in other types of referral sources. It worked really well for us and it was a good thing for us and for the community.”
“What’s nice, I think, about Campagna, is that we look at the gaps in the community and we try to bring in services that are needed. Our residential treatment program is a great example of our developing programs.”
“It sounds corny, but I like the difference that you make every day with the children,” said Dwyre of her position at Campagna. “Being in the position that I hold, having the ability to influence others to bring change to our community, to bring the services that are needed, you have to be a constant advocate. I’m privileged to be in the position that I’m in, to be able to speak on behalf of these children and their families.”
Born in South America, in Peru, she moved to America with her family when she was 8, eventually obtaining her undergraduate degree from Purdue in clinical psych.
“From there, I knew that I wanted to work in social services, though I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted to do,” said Dwyre. “I held my own practice for some time and worked in Chicago at various jobs before deciding to pursue my graduate degree from Indiana University Northwest. It was the type of degree that would allow me to put in place my clinical training, but at the same time, as a social worker, I was able on a macro level to run the administration side of things. It was a nice combination for me... a good balance.”
Elena continues to be an active alumnus at IUN, participating in their social work program where she has taught both graduate and undergrad programs for several years.
Elena says that she loves the resources available to her right here in Northwest Indiana.
“We love it! It’s great to be so close to Chicago. We set roots here and it’s worked out well.”
Dwyre also appreciates the quick days she sees in her position at Campagna.
“I always try to make it a point to spend time with the staff and with the kids. Days go by very fast for us,” she laughed. “There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.”
In her free time, she likes to spend time at home with her own three children. She also feels that IUN is a nice break from her other obligations.
“It’s a nice way for me to shift my focus on a different way of looking at social work”
But on the weekends, it’s all about family.
“It’s about trying to slow down. The weeks move so quickly and everything else is so fast-paced. We look forward to just doing something with the kids.”
Married for 25 years to her husband, John, whom Elena met when they were attending high school in Peru, they share many happy memories and three wonderful children: Andrew, a student at Marion Catholic HS, daughter Emma, who goes to St Mary’s and daughter Christina, 23, who recently announced her engagement.
“We’re still somewhat shocked about it, but he’s a great great guy and we’re very happy.”
Though they spent some time living in Chicago, John and Elena moved to Indiana when they were expecting their son.
“We were having Andrew at that point and we wanted to be closer to my parents for that. We like it here because it’s quiet, it’s convenient, but it’s close to the city and we enjoy going there often, but we love the schools in the area. We started going to graduate school, one thing led to another and 25 years later, we’re still here,” said Dwyre, who appreciates all that living in the Region has to offer.
“The Indiana Symphony Holiday Pops is a big tradition to us. The Symphony is a tremendous asset to the area. And Pierogi Fest is a classic!”
“Wonderful schools, great communities and close to family. Living here has really meant a lot to us.”
For more information about the terrific work done by Campagna Academy, visit them online at http://www.campagnaacademy.org/