By: Jason

Mia McDowell was named the Employee of the Month for the month of April! We are so proud of her, and based on the cheers of our staff when her named was called, we know it was a well-deserved award.  I had the opportunity recently to sit down and chat so all of you in our online community could get to know her a little bit better.

Jason: So Mia, where are you from?

Mia: Los Angeles, California. Born and raised there. My family relocated to Georgia seven years ago after some deaths in our family.  I’m the youngest of six kids, which was great because I had to keep up. It taught me how to be independent at an early age.

Jason: What about school?

Mia: I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Southern University in Louisiana, and then did my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. Originally, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but then I realized that I hated blood and being in hospitals. So from there I thought I’d like to do counseling.

Jason: How long have you been working in human and social services?

Mia: I’ve had 15 years of experience in human services experience.  Gateway Center is my first time officially working with people experiencing homelessness, but previous jobs have provided various connecting points to the community.

Jason: Why do you love your job?

Mia: I have a passion for helping people.  Really, it’s a passion to help people help themselves. I love giving them the tools to be successful, to get a job, to find a place to live, and to be healthy.

Jason: What’s the biggest challenge for you in this job?

Mia: It’s tough whenever someone comes back. It’s always such a positive to see someone “get it”, to see them succeed in recovery or get through school.  Sometimes everything doesn’t click until they’ve had to come back a few times. And that’s okay. We keep working. The staff on my floor makes it great too.  This is a fantastic team, here on the 4th floor and throughout the building.

Jason: What are some of the aspects of working with veterans that make your program unique?

Mia: For us, there is a huge emphasis on recovery and mental health.  We work hard to make sure our clients are getting through the supportive programs they need so that they can gain employment.  This is important everywhere, but with veterans there is often needed a special focus on these areas.

Jason: Okay, so let’s talk about your personal life a little bit. What do you love?

Mia: I love to travel, particularly in the Caribbean. I like the Bahamas, Cuba, and other islands, as well as visiting American cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York, and, back when I lived in L.A., Las Vegas.  My favorite movie is “Love Jones”. As far as books, I love spiritual books like Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.  I’m also a big fan of trying new restaurants, particularly involving Mexican food.

Jason: What do you see yourself doing down the road?

Mia: I would love to open a group house for young adult women, perhaps pregnant teens. I’d like to help them through that time with the tools they need to be successful going forward.

Jason: Do you think you will ever move back to California?

Mia: I like it here. I miss the beach and the weather, but I like Georgia. Everything is much more relaxed and laid-back here, and that suits my personality.

Jason: One last question. How did you feel when they called your name and told you that you had won the award?

Mia: I was shocked to win and I was almost overwhelmed, but I told myself that I had to get it together.  People here don’t do this for the awards; they do it because they love what they do. That’s what I’m here for. And it’s a great thing about Gateway Center: it’s a needed place in the community, a stepping stone for people to get to their next destination.

Jason: Alright, great! Thank you so much for taking the time, Mia.

Mia: Thank you!


Below are a few lines spoken by some of the clients who nominated Mia for this award.

“Ms. Mia is kind, caring and open-minded.  Any time I have a problem with anything I feel comfortable talking with her about it.”

“Ms. McDowell has no doubt been one of the best supervisor/managers by far.”

“Ms. McDowell is excellent when talking not only her clients but to people in general.  She listens and responds to people in a nice way to make you feel like you are somebody more than an addict or a patient.”

Thank you, Mia! You are truly making a huge difference!