Bridges to a New Day executive director empowers others, gives back through counseling
Carolyn Khan has been empowering children and adults through counseling for the past 15 years in her role as executive director of Bridges to a New Day in Romeoville.
“We strive to help children overcome the negative effects domestic violence has on their lives, to learn to deal with the aftermath of divorce, to learn to cope with the loss of a loved one, to develop positive self-esteem so they are able to achieve their school potential, and to learn to cope with other life crises in a manner that promotes a healthy lifestyle,” Khan told Will County Gazette. “We strive to help our adults to learn to deal with the effects unhealthy choices have made on their lives, to deal with depression issues, to deal with the loss of a loved one and to empower them to reach their potential both at work or home. And we strive to empower families to learn to interact and communicate in a healthy manner that promotes positive lifestyle choices.”
Khan joined a group of 12 concerned citizens to form the counseling agency in 2004. Bridges to a New Day started out by providing parenting workshops and dating-violence presentations, and then later expanded to providing counseling for all adults, children, families and couples.
“I wanted to make a difference in the community and pass on to others the support and guidance that I received throughout my life,” Khan said. “I believe that helping others through trainings, counseling and mentoring is my way of improving the community I serve. It is thrilling to work with a group of people who are driven to improve their community and understand the importance of giving back to others. The most favorite thing for me is seeing a new volunteer grow in their job and responsibilities to the agency.”
Among the services now offered by Bridges are free counseling for victims of domestic violence and their children, free counseling for children who have been raised in homes of domestic violence, counseling for low and moderate income-level families and individuals, and group sessions at local schools.
“In order to provide these services, a goal is to continue to expand our funding sources in a manner that allows us to continue to provide these services at an affordable rate,” Khan said. “Another goal is to increase funding sources so that we can expand the school program and/or our evening counseling services to meet current requests.”
Khan was born in Indiana and lived in Texas and Oklahoma before settling in Illinois. She currently lives in Aurora. She obtained a master's degree in counseling from Governors State University at the same time she was raising her three children.
“In order to get my degree, I went year-round and attended classes longer than the average student,” Khan said. “But I achieved something that no other woman in my family, in my generation, had. I was the first woman in my family to graduate from college and then to graduate with a master’s degree.”
Khan is a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified domestic-violence professional. She has worked in the social services field for over two decades. She has received numerous professional awards including the 2017 Illinois Counseling Association Bea Welurly Human Rights Award.
“Working in the counseling field allows me to guide, support and teach people ways to lead their lives in a manner that empowers them and helps them meet their life goals,” Khan said. “Counseling can help a person to move past a trauma and move toward the life that they envision for themselves and/or their family.”
Khan is past president of the Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional Board and past president of the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Board. She is the current President-Elect of the Illinois Counseling Association.
“I believe that if we want to make a difference and improve our lives, then the best way is to volunteer within our community,” Khan said. “We have the power to make a difference at any age and in a variety of different settings. We just need to find those opportunities and challenge ourselves.”
In whatever spare time she can find, Khan enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, doing crafts and reading mystery books.