Boys Ranch Chief Program Officer Named Catherine Hershey Administrator Of The Year

Boys Ranch Chief Program Officer Named Catherine Hershey Administrator Of The Year

Having been at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch since 2007, Michelle Maikoetter, chief program officer, was given one of the highest honors for those working in residential childcare. At the 2023 Coalition for Residential Excellence (CORE) National Conference in September of 2023, in Chamberlain, South Dakota, Michelle was named the Catherine Hershey Administrator of the Year. She was nominated for the award by Adrian Jackson, vice president of home life at Boys Ranch.

“Michelle’s exceptional dedication to driving positive change within our program has been nothing short of remarkable. Her unwavering commitment and resilience in the face of challenges have truly set her apart. Michelle’s remarkable efforts often occur behind the scenes, and it is not uncommon for individuals in her position to be overlooked when it comes to awards. However, I am confident in saying that there is no individual more deserving of this nomination than Michelle,” Jackson said. “Her guidance, leadership and innovative approaches have not only elevated our organization but have also served as an inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to work alongside her.”

Since its inception in 2005, the Catherine Hershey Awards are national awards specifically for the residential education field. Administered by CORE, the awards are sponsored by the Milton Hershey School. Judges are individuals from the residential field who rank all submitted nominations with personal and program information removed. The awards honor outstanding staff, students and supporters whose dedication and contributions exemplify the essence of residential excellence, which is affording youth from all backgrounds the opportunities to help them navigate a solid course in education, career and relationships in life.

Michelle previously served as assistant administrator for girls and pre-adolescents and senior vice president of residential programs. She has earned a master’s degree and is state and nationally licensed as a professional counselor and supervisor. Her prior experience outside of Boys Ranch includes more than 20 years in childcare, including wilderness programming, juvenile justice, after-school programming and domestic violence/sexual assault.

“There have been so many opportunities at Boys Ranch, especially because we do not have to rely on state or grant funding. It’s very different than other positions I’ve been in, and it allows for the freedom to be creative and individualize services for each child,” Michelle said. “I feel like residential work is the only place where you can do the kind of work that you need to do to heal. Everything else just kind of feels like a little bit of a light touch compared to what you can do in a residential setting. It’s hard for me to imagine working outside of residential care.”

Michelle became a certified clinician, trainer and mentor through training with Dr. Bruce Perry in his Neurosequential Model. She was among the first Child Trauma Academy Fellows selected by Dr. Perry in 2012 and led Boys Ranch to become a Phase II certified facility. Michelle is also a practitioner and mentor of the Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) model, receiving her training directly from founders Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross.

“These partnerships have significantly strengthened our organization’s ability to implement Trauma-Informed Care techniques effectively, not only within our organization but also as a resource for other institutions seeking to make a positive impact,” said Richard Nedelkoff, president and CEO of Boys Ranch. “Michelle’s impact on our organization has been profound throughout her impressive tenure with the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch family.”

As chief program officer at Boys Ranch, one of the largest nonprofit residential childcare facilities in the United States, Michelle is responsible for training, crisis intervention, counseling, day-today operations and developing the operational guide for professional caregivers in residential settings. Her current interest is in developing a holistic approach using neuroscience, relational health, experiences and learning as a way to positively change each child’s trajectory.

“The group of people at CORE are really amazing and kindred spirits as far as being supportive and believing in residential care. For Adrian to write that nomination and to be willing to write that after we’ve worked together for so long with everything that we’ve been through as far as the changes in the culture and the trainings, it’s a bit overwhelming,” Michelle said. “When I got the award at the conference, it was hard for me to see why I’m any different than or deserve anything different than others because I couldn’t have done any of this without a lot of amazing people at Boys Ranch doing really good work.”

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