You might say that butterflies are what brought Bregetta Wilson to Alverno.
Wilson, as a working mom and college student, strongly identified with the themes of evolution and growth that butterflies represented. In search of her next step, she attended a mental health summit hosted by Alverno, where she was struck by the knowledge on display. Then, she spotted a butterfly in a surprising place — on a brochure for the Master of Science in Community Psychology program. It seemed serendipitous. “This is my school,” Wilson remembers thinking. “I knew, from the first time I came to Alverno, that I was meant to be here.”
Today, Wilson is an accomplished professional, a fierce advocate and a confident leader who is less than a year away from earning her master’s degree. Everything she does is grounded in a desire to not only help others but to also inspire. “That’s my thing,” she laughs. “My whole existence is to inspire people to be the best that they can be.”
To do so, Wilson relies on an ample dose of love as well as a willingness to share her own experiences. “In our vulnerability, we can change a person’s life,” she explains.
Those experiences include the five years that Wilson spent in foster care as well as becoming a mother at the age of 17. After aging out of foster care, she went to work and began pursuing her college degree. After eight years, the now-mother of three earned her bachelor’s degree in human services management from Cardinal Stritch University. “Some nights I didn’t get my homework done, or an assignment was late,” she says. “But I kept going. I wanted my children to see that.”
Wilson has used her experiences to help others, including other children who have spent time in the foster-care system. As a former member of the Wisconsin Youth Advocacy Council, she successfully lobbied Wisconsin lawmakers to strengthen foster care parent training programs. She also fought for new legislation that allows young adults in the state to keep their health insurance after aging out of the foster-care system.
More recently, Wilson inspired the residents of Metcalfe Park as a community health navigator with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She sought to connect with residents to provide them with the resources to live a healthy life. After a lot of knocking on doors, “I knew the whole neighborhood,” she says. “They knew that they could call me and I would support them. But I also held them accountable.”
Her achievements in community organizing include planning a job fair that drew some 200 people, and she’s especially proud of the packed house because she had never organized such an event before. And she was deeply moved by the community healing circles she planned and hosted. In the safe space she created, neighbors came together to not only discuss community trauma but to deepen their connections to each other. “In darkness, there needs to be light,” she says.
Wilson’s experiences have come full circle in her internship at Family Options Counseling, where she works with individual children, some of whom are in foster care, as well as families. While challenging, she is grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing as she works toward completing her master’s degree and becoming a licensed therapist. She also aspires to earn her doctorate in psychology — goals that, a decade ago, she may not have imagined.
“In life, you never know where you’re going to be,” she says. “But if you do what’s right in your heart, you’ll be right where you’re supposed to be.”
This article originally appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Alverno Magazine.