Charlotte Campus Executive Director, Leonard Shinhoster, shares over 20 years of his personal and professional experience at Alexander Youth Network.
If you have ever visited Alexander Youth Network’s Charlotte campus, you have probably met Leonard Shinhoster. He is almost always unmistakenly decked out in a blazer with a Washington Redskins cap. Usually, he’s the first friendly face to greet you while on a tour, visiting family, interviewing for a position, or grabbing lunch with your buddy. For the past 20 years, Leonard has made it his mission to be a connection for every staff, volunteer, and child that resides at Alexander.
Shinhoster, originally from Florida, arrived in Charlotte as a student at Queens University, where he studied Sociology, he also maintained his Special Education teacher licensure. After making a few network connections through his first Behavioral Health Counselor position at Thompson Child and Family Services, he came to Alexander Youth Network. Over the years he has worked in both the residential and day treatment programs as a counselor, teacher, supervisor and currently, as the Executive Director of Charlotte Campus.
In all those years one thing has remained constant for Shinhoster – his compassion and caring for others.
“For many of the kids at Alexander, this is the first time they have stability and feel like they are being cared for,” said Shinhoster.
Having grown up as the oldest of three and raised by a single mother, the comfort of stability resonates with Leonard. He has always been drawn to being a leader and supporting others, whether it’s his younger siblings or the individuals he encountered when volunteering at organizations like the Special Olympics. It is these experiences that helped Leonard understand the importance of relationships. He develops relationships with the kids at Alexander to remind them that there are people in the healthcare and social system who care about them and their well-being. Knowing that this system can feel lonely for a child of any age, Leonard makes it his personal mission to let the kids know that he cares. Former clients have reached out to him to share happy memories of their time at Alexander and how he has made a difference in their lives.
“I always want to do right by the kids,” said Shinhoster as he speaks about his dedication to Alexander.
Over the years, Shinhoster has had his fair share of long days or crisis moments but he always remembers that the kids at Alexander need more – more consistency, stability, support, quality care, and someone to look out for their best interest. Leonard has woven himself into every facet of the two programs located on Alexander’s main campus to make sure that every child here receives just that.
Along with his remarkable relationship with the kids at Alexander, Leonard has become a mentor and confidant for staff. With sometimes challenging clients, long days, and the rotations of running a 24/7 residential program, staff are taxed by the intensity of being in the field of mental and behavioral health. He frequently checks in with staff and also provides a safe place for them to decompress. He describes himself as a team player and his staff knows that he can jump in when needed or is available for personal or professional advice.
“It is a 24/7 job. I want my staff to feel equipped to handle the job when I am not here. But I also know that I have to be visible. I’ve had almost every job you can count at Alexander so I know that you cannot always separate the stress or heavy emotional burden that comes with some of our kids’ stories. Being present reminds my staff that I am here if they need to take a minute for themselves after a tough counseling session or an incident in the gym.”
For 20 years, Leonard Shinhoster has been a mentor for staff, a friend to volunteers, and most importantly, a positive connection for the children at Alexander. “It has been amazing to watch Alexander grow into a leader in mental healthcare and a state-wide provider,” said Shinhoster, “I’ve watched the agency open 16 new day treatment programs – when I started, there was one!”
Leonard Shinhoster embodies the Alexander Model of Care, he prioritizes relationships, builds support systems, and inspires positivity in others. Alexander is proud of the connections he has made in his 20 years and our programs would not be the same without him. Thank you for your unwavering dedication to Alexander Youth Network!
Shinhoster shares the reason for his dedication, “I believe a kid will remember one negative interaction over the 100 plus positive ones they have while on campus, that’s why it’s my personal goal to make sure they have as many positive interactions as possible.”
Leonard has resided in Charlotte since 1991. He is an avid sports fan and actively coaches basketball with his two kids.
Written by Emily Gordon.