Jessica Peters believes everyone deserves a chance to reach her goals.
Her work at Transitions and involvement with the Quincy Noon Kiwanis Club put that belief to work for people with disabilities.
"It is very satisfying to be able to help, to know I make a difference in maybe one person's life during the day," Peters said.
College classes in social work and psychology piqued an interest that blossomed into a career overseeing group homes and an apartment complex, a school and vocational programs through Transitions, while her Kiwanis membership got her involved with its offshoot, the Aktion Club, a service club for adults with disabilities.
"Jessica truly believes that every person, no matter what disabilities or obstacles they may face, has potential for success and independence in life," Cindy Freels said in nominating Peters for 20 Under 40. "She works hard in her career to make that happen for others and lives that belief in her personal life."
Family: Husband; daughter, 3; baby boy due in mid-December.
Education: Associate's degree, Moberly Area Community College; bachelor's in psychology, Quincy University; master's in social work, University of Missouri-Columbia.
Community involvement: Member, Quincy Noon Kiwanis; liaison between the Kiwanis and Transition's Aktion Club; member, The Crossing in Hannibal, Mo.; regular volunteer The Crossing's monthly food pantry.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it? I'm the director of developmental disability services at Transitions of Western Illinois. I provide supervision and oversight to eight distinct programs with about 80 staff members -- serving about 500 consumers on an annual basis. The best part of my job is working with a wide variety of programs that provide much-needed services to the consumers we serve. We provide a day program, and residential, vocational and educational services to children and adults.
What is a typical workweek like? My workweek is filled with meetings, projects and running from program to program to provide assistance, and more meetings.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it? My first "real" job was as a waitress at a family-owned restaurant in my hometown. This is gross, but the most memorable thing about that job was hearing mice running around in the ceiling. I have no idea how that place passed health inspections. Luckily, shortly after I left there, the old building was torn down and replaced with a new one. I also remember having a lot of fun because I had several friends who worked with me. We probably had more fun than we should have at work.
How do you balance everything? Sometimes I wonder, but at this point I just try to get as much done as I can in a day knowing that the rest will be waiting for me the next day. Since I work full time, I make a point to spend as much time with my husband and daughter as I can. And I try to have a little fun from time to time, too.
Which person has influenced you the most and why? I can't pick just one person who has influenced me the most. I have had the privilege of acquainting myself with a lot of amazing people -- people who work hard at home and work, people who keep going despite tragedy and turmoil, people who remind me that I should never take things for granted.
Have you ever failed at something? How did you recover? I have failed at lots of things -- personally and professionally. I just work through it, make peace with it and move on.
What does success mean to you? To me, success is making the most of every day, accomplishing what is possible, and knowing that tomorrow is another day.
What was your proudest professional moment? I have held several positions at Transitions. I have moved up from an entry level position to administrator. Each move has been very exciting and challenging, and I have been very proud of my accomplishments.
What is your favorite stress-buster/leisure time diversion? There's nothing better than vegging out in front of the TV. I have some favorite TV shows, and with my busy schedule I am happy for the invention of DVR. I also like to take walks, read and have fun with friends and family.
What is the biggest need in your community? The biggest need in my community is more business and industry. Our community needs more jobs to stimulate the economy.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community? Monroe City, Mo., has always thrived, even in bad times. The recession and closing of two major industries was rough on our little town, but we made it through.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be? I would tell myself to apply myself more in my studies, strive to get better grades, take school more seriously and know that I really don't know it all.
If you weren't working for Transitions, what would you be doing? I'd like to say that I would be a stay-at-home mom, but I don't think I'm cut out for that. I enjoy my daughter and spend as much time with her as I can, but I also enjoy my time away. I think working outside the home makes me a better parent when I am at home. I'm sure I would be working in the social services field, maybe a little closer to home so I don't have so far to drive every day.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? With my husband and daughter.
Do you live by any mantra or saying? Not really.
Career aspirations aside, name one thing you definitely want to accomplish in your lifetime. I want to be the best parent I can be; to raise my children to think for themselves, make good decisions and be responsible people.