- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Being raised in a single-father household had a profound effect on Hastings resident Jessica Soucie.

Soucie, a 2002 Hastings High graduate with degrees from Hastings College and Doane College, says the example set by her father, Brian Kennedy, is one of the reasons she pursued a career in community service as executive director of the TeamMates mentoring program in Hastings.

“He would do anything for anybody, and I’ve kind of adopted that,” Soucie told the Hastings Tribune. “He would be the first to go scoop a neighbor’s driveway or mow their yard. He’s always said, ‘If you don’t help people, you’re never going to get helped if you need it.’

“He’s really shown that sacrificing something to help somebody else is never a bad thing.” Soucie said.

A wife and mother of two young children, MaCoy, 5, and Jaylinn, 5 months, she once considered a career as a nurse after taking a job as a certified nursing assistant and medical assistant aid in high school at the Kensington assisted-living community. But a psychology class taken her sophomore year in college ultimately led her to pursue a different path of service to others.

“I love my job,” she said. “I’m very fortunate. I get to match students in middle school and high school with caring adults in the community. I get the pleasure of watching these relationships develop. Our mentors are amazing at bringing out their good qualities.”

Her pay-it-forward mindset comes into play as she directs those involved in the mentoring program. Recent projects carried out by mentors and mentees have included creating and delivering care packages to residents of the Kensington and Midwest Homestead of Hastings. Another project in the works will involve assembling food packages with the local Kids Against Hunger branch for distribution to starving families and individuals around the globe.

On a personal level, she is currently in the process of becoming an advocate for Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, a program dedicated to finding homes for abused and neglected children. Both she and her husband, Nick, intend to immerse their daughters in charitable activities as they come of age.

That Nick shares her passion for giving is one of the attributes she appreciates most about him, she said.

“He has the exact same outlook on life that I do: that it’s really important to help whenever you can, and that family is always the most important thing,” she said. “I just believe that if you do good things, good things will happen to you. And I have been very blessed in my life.”

As an avid Husker fan, she can’t help but appreciate being part of an organization founded by perhaps the best-known Husker of them all: legendary head coach Tom Osborne. Working with the likes of Osborne and former Husker and NFL player Jason Peter has reinforced her belief that - regardless of how busy one’s schedule may be - there is always time to help others.

Meeting them was a pretty cool experience, especially for Nick, she said.

“Jason Peter is amazing!” she said. “I was a little star-struck with him at first, but I got to talk to him many times on the phone first, so that helped.

“Tom probably gives back as much anybody possibly can, and was able to do that and create this program all while being the head coach of the Huskers. It doesn’t take your entire life to get something done. If you dedicate yourself, you can always make it work.”

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Information from: Hastings Tribune, https://www.hastingstribune.com

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