By Richard Burnett
Christine White’s career voyage took many turns before she reached a harbor. She worked as a nanny, lifeguard, preschool teacher, and medical records assistant, among other jobs. At each step along the way, she learned something that would ready her for the next step.
Today, White plays a vital role in maintenance and security logistics for iconic Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. As a maintenance and security key coordinator, she handles an impressive array of responsibilities, from safety and security inspections to key inventory management.
“Seems like it’s never a quiet day around the office,” the 2007 Beacon College graduate said. “I have two titles that actually involve multiple jobs, such as facilities maintenance coordinator, locksmith administrator, and maintenance liaison between the Army and Navy. I’m also the special events coordinator, which means I set up ceremonies, birthday parties, and going away parties.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” White said. “But it’s energizing.”
Counseling education comes in handy
Maintenance logistics may seem a long way from the counseling career White envisioned when she finished Beacon with a bachelor’s degree in human services. But having a counseling background has helped her apply listening skills and organizational expertise in her job at Walter Reed, she said.
After graduation in 2007, White returned to her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, to help care for her father who was ill. At that time, she began to apply for mental health positions. Her first interview for a counseling job, however, was a disaster.
“I was offered a position with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but I found out that when I met with clients, I would have to sit there with an armed guard next to me for protection,” White recalled. “That scared me to death.”
A series of jobs followed, until White landed a position in healthcare logistics — managing a housekeeping team for the University of Maryland at Baltimore Medical Center. Five months later, she landed the job at Walter Reed through J&J Worldwide Services, a major subcontractor.
From diagnosis to workarounds
In kindergarten, White said, her teachers noticed something different about her. She had difficulty reading, was slow to understand what she read, and experienced anxiety about following directions.
She was eventually diagnosed with cognitive processing and anxiety issues, and placed in a section for students with learning disabilities (LD). Those classes offered limited help, however, as teachers were often overwhelmed with the amalgam of disabilities they encountered.
“My LD classes had people with a jumble of different problems, not just processing and reading, but also ADHD, dyslexia, and other things,” she said. “A lot of times, you just felt like it was sink or swim.”
So White learned to “swim.” She developed workarounds to her problems, read ahead of the class on her assignments, and increased her comprehension to keep up with other students. The organizational and logistical skills she honed helped her flourish at Beacon, she said.
Growing up at Beacon
“Beacon helped me strengthen the skills I already had,” White said. “The most important thing was when I got there, I realized I wasn’t alone with the problems I had. The teachers were better prepared at Beacon to handle each person’s need. That made all the difference.”
White credited Dr. Shelly Chandler for being her “go-to mentor,” at Beacon. Chandler, now the college’s provost, was a professor during White’s years at the college. “Outside of class, she felt like a friend, someone I could trust and talk to about anything and not be judged,” White said.
Chandler said White was a memorable, standout student, and they have stayed in touch through the years.
“There’s a strong bond,” Chandler said. “Christine is a very positive person and she has a great enthusiasm for learning. She was a very good student and had a high GPA. She never disappointed me.”