Tenille Hunter is the Chief Operating Officer for Central Arkansas Disability Services, a nonprofit that uses a people-centric approach to empower and support individuals with disabilities in every aspect of their lives. For more than 20 years, this organization has connected individuals with employment supports and community-based programs that support their highest level of independence.
“We work with anyone who has barriers to employment,” Tenille says. “We’ll provide resources for them, connect them with community partners and examine how we can utilize our existing network of services to help them.”
Tenille recently joined Central Arkansas Disability Services, but she’s devoted her entire career to helping different populations who have barriers to independence. She previously spent 14 years at Goodwill, serving as a job coach, programs manager and ultimately as director of mission services.
When the position opened at Central Arkansas Disability Services, Tenille knew this would be an opportunity to return to the work she loves best.
“I am most comfortable when I’m serving and have the opportunity to impact an individual’s life, no matter how big or how small,” Tenille mentions.
Creating a Fulfilling Career Path
Tenille knew she wanted a fulfilling career, but she didn’t exactly know she’d follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“My mother was a special education teacher for over 30 years. I never thought I would be able to work with a similar population.” she notes.
Tenille was confident she didn’t want to be a teacher. Early in her career, she found that she was most fulfilled when she could provide direct services to people with disabilities.
“When I was young, I happened upon a job working for Goodwill providing direct support as a job coach,” Tenille explains. “That was eye-opening and I loved every single minute of it.”
Throughout her career, Tenille has been able to impact many different lives. And while nonprofit work can be challenging, she finds it very fulfilling.
“My motivating factor is being able to support individuals and get them where they want to be in their lives,” Tenille shares.
Mentorship is Key
Tenille wants future women leaders to find strong mentors.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without those two strong mentors I had early in my career,” Tenille expresses. “Renee and Staci saw something that I couldn’t see in myself. And they really pushed me to the top and supported me the entire way.”
In addition to building a supportive network, Tenille encourages young women to trust in themselves.
“Trust yourself to do the right thing, trust yourself to make mistakes. You have great ideas floating around in your brain—put action behind it. If it doesn’t work out the first time, pick yourself right back up and keep moving,” Tenille says.
Tenille’s work isn’t easy. Nonprofits face budget restrictions and it can be very tough to get the general public on board with the cause. But she is passionate about her work and strongly believes that everyone’s voice should be heard and amplified.
“Build resilience and have support from mentors that you can trust and call on. Recognize your strengths, your beauty, your talent and what you can offer. Stand firm in that so you can get your dreams and your goals. It’s hard, but it’s a beautiful journey.”