Nurse works to be positive force in her community
Inspired to help her children grow up having the best possible outcome for themselves, nurse Stephanie Stillwell is passionate about fostering and creating a positive, motivating and healthy community in which her children can grow and learn.
"The children are our future, and we need to provide each child with the opportunity to have the best start in life," she said.
Stillwell is the Community Outreach Director for GSquared and works as a Registered Nurse with the Ninilchik Traditional Council Community Clinic.
Her main passion is community and population health and wellness, providing community education and outreach to connect individuals with available resources.
Stillwell moved to Homer in 2015, and began working as a public health nurse with the State of Alaska. She traveled throughout the state, working in rural villages and communities across the Bay, providing education, well-child exams, immunizations and other health services. She became involved in multiple health and wellness coalitions throughout the southern Kenai Peninsula, and became active both across the state and locally in response efforts to the opioid epidemic.
While she enjoyed her work, Stillwell shared that she was eager to work in one specific community, rather than multiple communities. This past July, she began working out of the Ninilchik Traditional Council Community Clinic.
She also began working part time with GSquared, an independent contracting business based in Homer and created by Homer resident, Hannah Gustafson. GSquared's mission is to bring problem-solving to community, agency and logistical challenges, with team members finding solutions for individuals, projects and events throughout Alaska.
"We work on different types of contracts, including project management for other agencies statewide," she said.
Passionate about making a difference in the community, Stillwell is involved with Kenai Peninsula-wide coalitions, including MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership), a local coalition that aims to use and build upon community strengths to improve individual, family and community health.
She also serves on the Board of Directors for Sprout Family Services, whose mission for the past 30 years has been to promote healthy development in children.
"If we can instill resiliency and positivity within our kids, it will hopefully have a positive ripple effect in their families and community," she said.
Raised in Minnesota, in a multicultural family of Ojibwa and Finnish, Stillwell originally dreamed of working with native communities or communities with a high need for education, prevention or wellness.
Living in Ohio since 2005, she worked as a pediatric registered nurse in neuropsychiatry at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, working with children and adolescents with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Stillwell shared that, while she enjoyed her work, she was ready to make a change.
"I went into nursing with a passion to work in rural communities, to focus on education, wellness and prevention and to help change the outcome for entire communities," she said.
In 2015, she decided to pursue her longtime dream of living in Alaska.
"I had never been to Alaska before, but knew that I was ready to leave Ohio and that I wanted to be in a place I wanted to live with a job I really wanted and felt passionate about," she said.
She began looking online for jobs online and was hired as a public health nurse with the State of Alaska, based out of Homer.
Three months later, Stillwell and her family, including children, Jocelyn, then seven-years-old, Nolan, then four-years-old and newborn, Jude began their journey north.
The family flew into Anchorage and drove to Homer during a snowstorm.
"It took us eight hours to get to Homer," she said. "It was snowing so hard, the roads were slippery and I couldn't really see anything in front of me."
When the family drove up to the house they would be renting on Diamond Ridge, the skies cleared.
"Seeing that view for the first time, my heart nearly stopped and I started crying," she shared.
Like their mom, the children are very involved in the community. Jocelyn, now nine-years-old, and a group of her friends created Homer Sour Girls, selling lemonade at venues in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter. They donate the proceeds to various groups around town.
"It is so great to raise my children in an area where people encourage them to be the creative, imaginative and wonderful children they are," she said.
Stillwell has long had a passion for living a subsistence lifestyle and hopes to buy her own property and live both off the land and off the grid. Today, she embraces her Alaska life, passionate about using her work in outreach and education to have the biggest impact on the most people.
"It's been easy to come here and jump right in, because this community is easy to engage in community health efforts," she said. "I enjoy focusing on the bigger picture, doing work that is not immediately gratifying, but that will help individuals and communities tomorrow or 10 years from now."