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Celebrating 30 Years: Linda Rolley!

A New Beginning

It was a chilly March morning in Allentown as Linda pulled into the parking lot on Linden Street. She turned the car off and sat in silence for a few moments, steeling herself before venturing into the sand-colored row home where she would face her first day as a Case Manager at Valley Youth House.

While she was eager to put her hard-earned Psychology degree to work, she was also anxious. Even in the morning hours, the office was buzzing with activity. She found herself awash in a bewildering deluge of names, faces, and acronyms. This was her first professional role but she was surrounded by therapists, like her team partner, Kathleen Gavin, who had been doing this work for years. 


Finding Her Voice

For the first few months, Linda felt herself quietly holding back during sessions with clients. Kathleen approached clients with a natural flow that she found hard to emulate. After noticing her apprehension, Kathleen spoke with Linda, encouraging her to find her own voice and personalized approach. To this day, Linda recalls this conversation as a key moment in her journey to becoming the champion for youth that she is today.

By 1998, Linda had earned her Master’s Degree in Community Counseling and transitioned into the role of Therapist for the Family Based Mental Health (FMBH) program. Over the years, both she and the agency have gracefully adapted to the changing landscape of everything from technology to the needs of young people. Before laptops, smartphones, voicemail or electronic timesheets, Linda and her team used written records, as well as beepers to get in touch with each other. When Valley Youth House moved into the internet age, the agency purchased one or two desktop computers per program that had to be reserved by staff on a first come, first served basis.

As the world changed, so did Linda’s role. In 2002, a year after winning the prestigious Carole Ferretti Award, the agency’s highest award for excellence in direct service, she transitioned into a new role as a therapist, and eventual supervisor for the Realistic Environment for Adolescent Living (REAL) program at our Independent Living sites in the Lehigh Valley. From there, Linda moved on to what is now known as the Adolescents Achieving Independence (AAI) program, formerly called OPALS, which has expanded to include Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties. She led the effort for VYH to become a SWAN affiliate and ultimately began supervising the  SWAN Permanency Services program in 2019. She has been the Director of those programs ever since. 


Amplifying Youth Voices

Regardless of her position at Valley Youth House, Linda has always been a passionate advocate for youth. Linda has been instrumental in developing forums for youth to safely share their experiences of foster care – a process known as Strategic Sharing. Recognizing the opportunity for collaboration with youth and the importance of supporting their voice, she acknowledges that every young person is at a different place in their journey. She also emphasizes the significance of preparing youth for the emotional turbulence that accompanies revisiting past trauma.. Linda regularly panels with the Child Welfare Resource Center, is on the planning committee for the Statewide Adoption and Independent Living Network (SWAN), and served as the Northeast Coordinator of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) for over a decade. 

“When the state has a question on what to do for an Independent Living situation, they often  reach out to Linda,” said Lisa Weingartner, Executive Vice President for Programs at Valley Youth House. “Many of the nuances of IL program implementation and development in this state have been shaped by her.”

Under her guidance, Valley Youth House’s yearly Independent Living Banquet has transformed into a full Thanksgiving dinner and football game, a 15-year tradition and cherished memory for many former clients. In addition to her role in IL and AAI, Linda also has a soft spot for Camp Fowler, joining the initial planning process for new additions and buildings on the campground. 


“Camp Fowler has always been a favorite of mine. Back when the camp was first opening, Matt Galle’s [current manager at Camp Fowler] house was an Independent Living site of which I was the supervisor. The youth at the site worked at the camp throughout the year, getting to enjoy the outdoors and make memories with friends and staff.”


Leadership and Legacy

Now, thirty years since her first day, Linda has become a familiar and friendly face to many at the agency, and a reassuring presence to new staff facing the same barrage of unfamiliar names and acronyms. As the Director of Permanency and Independent Living Services, Linda supports not only the youth we serve, but her dedicated team of supervisors, coordinators, counselors and permanency service specialists. Linda invests in the team and it shows in their skills, dedication, integrity and leadership. 


“I have been very lucky that over the years, I have had direct service staff stay in my program for over 5 years which is a true gift to the youth and to the team. Just being able to watch my staff grow from their first day in the field to being leaders themselves is really inspiring.”



Facing Today’s Challenges: A Commitment to Youth

While she recognizes the many complex and nuanced challenges faced by young people in today’s society, Linda’s breadth of experience and willingness to go the extra mile ensures  that our clients are always given the resources and support they need. Despite obstacles such as the national housing crisis and youth homelessness, Linda cherishes the many memories she has made over her three decades at Valley Youth House. At least 10 of her former clients have been employed at the agency over the years, and she has seen countless others launch into successful careers of their own. 

In addition to her dedicated and collaborative work at VYH, Linda also has raised a family. She lives in Bucks County and has two children, Mason and Grayden, with her loving husband Jeff, who is a Supervisor in the LV SIL program.  Over the years Linda has found a love for travel to Disney and one could say it is her secret superpower, “Disney Planning.”

While the office buildings and technology have changed over the past thirty years, Linda maintains the same dedication to helping young people achieve their desired futures through genuine relationships that support families, ensure safe places, and build community connections, and we are immensely grateful for having her on our team. Congratulations, Linda and thank you for your 30 years of service to Valley Youth House!