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Kathleen Pantaleo

Program Assistant, Caregivers Community Network

Photo: Kathleen Pantaleo

Those who don't know her well might question Kathleen Pantaleo's midlife decision to leave her job as an annual fund director and go to work at JMU as an assistant in a respite program for family members who care for frail elders or those with dementia. But as one of only two staff members at Caregivers Community Network -- part of JMU's Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services — Kathleen is thrilled to put her gerontology degree to work. While she was making a living at fundraising, her volunteer work always involved the elderly. She even played fiddle for the old-time music hour at an adult day care center. Kathleen says, "This has always been my dream, to work with the elderly, to be a resource for them." She's discovering a new passion, too — as a mentor to JMU students who earn nursing course credits by working with elders through CCN. Kathleen says, "Our elders love that blast of energy from the students. That's what we really count on." For Kathleen, the risky decision to change careers has paid off in real terms — she's making a difference in the lives of young and old alike.

"I'm not looking back. I was ready to make the change. Twelve years after I earned my degree, I'm doing something I've been dreaming about."