New Staff Spotlight: Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

What sparked your interest in social impact work?

College was a big turning point. As a person of color like me on a predominantly white campus, I craved that feeling of belonging, a home away from home. That’s when I started a Latin sorority chapter, not just for myself but to build a community for others like me. I discovered a passion for helping others and fighting for justice, which became super important to me. After graduating, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and be the support system I never had had as a first generation Afro-Latina growing up in a single-parent home. So, I jumped in at a community center, helping young people, especially minorities who often face challenges, navigate college, and stay on track. That’s how my journey in social impact work began, and it’s been amazing ever since!


What is your vision for YWCA Central Massachusetts’ programming in the next few years?

When I joined the YW, my goal was not to ‘fix’ what was working but rather build upon it. Ideally, every program would be fully staffed and bustling with even more participants in a few years; I dream of this place bursting with life, good vibes, and, even more, people experiencing all the fantastic things YWCA offers. It’s already a special place, and I can’t wait to see it reach even more people in our community!


Are there any unique routines or practices that help you stay creative and energized in your fast-paced role?

Staying connected to people helps me stay fresh. I’m a huge pop culture person, , especially coming from a youth focused background it helped me relate to the youth I worked with (they kept me young, even if they gave me some gray hair, too, ha-ha!). But really, the key is just having genuine interactions and getting to know people. Hearing their stories and experiences sparks new ideas and burns that creative fire!


How do you navigate the emotional challenges of working on critical social issues? What keeps you motivated?

As a licensed clinical social worker, I’ve seen some tough stuff, especially in recent years with folks experiencing trauma and homelessness. Dealing with that can take a toll, but I rely on the tools I have and remind myself I can’t fix everything at once. It’s about chipping away at the more significant issues, like broken systems, bit by bit. To stay sane, I separate myself emotionally and indulge in some guilty pleasure reality TV and time with my loved ones. It’s all about balance.