Be the Change – Kat Lowrance: a Woman of Passion

The first thing one notices when meeting Kat Lowrance, Executive Director of Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California (RFENC), is her quick smile. It lights her face in such a way that people feel she’s been waiting all day just to see them. Her easy way of conversing and ready laughter put her staff and guests at ease.

Kat enjoys telling stories about her family. She and her husband Stan play a large role in the lives of her three adult children and two grandchildren. They are ready to assist as needed and engage in fun times that create memories.

Raising a deaf son, combined with the challenges her other children faced in the school system, helped prepare Kat for her work with Rowell, assisting families that have children with diverse abilities. “It’s a challenge to raise a child, and an even greater challenge when your child has differences,” she says.

Kat’s degrees in Child Development, Behavioral Science, and Special Education, along with her persevering personality, provided her with tools for obtaining necessary services. She knows from experience the difficulties of navigating the education, health, and bureaucratic systems, and how difficult it can be for families to get the help they need for their children with diverse needs.

This is where Kat’s passion – working with families – comes in. For her, it isn’t a job. It’s something she’s called to do … empowering parents so they can make a difference.

Kat wears many hats that give her opportunities to work with people in leadership, teaching and supporting roles. “I love teaching,” she says. She recalls her mother telling her she was a born teacher and suggesting she pursue a career in special education. Kat was unsure that was a path she wanted to take. “I guess my mom saw something in me that, at the time, I didn’t,” she recalls.

Kat was born and raised in Southern California. After the birth of her first child, a daughter, her pediatrician recommended moving away from smog to help eliminate her infant’s respiratory issues. Kat and her family moved to Humboldt, where her first son was born, then later to San Jose where she graduated from San Jose State University and where her youngest son was born.

Although they enjoyed the Bay Area, Kat and her family preferred a more rural environment. “We’d thought about Redding before moving to Humboldt,” she said, “but the heat was a deterrent.” Redding’s rural landscape and greater job opportunities now held more appeal, so once again the family moved.

The Redding move opened the door for Kat to take a leadership position as a disability specialist at Shasta Head Start. During that time, Wendy Longwell, now a Parent Consultant at RFENC, first met Kat. Wendy had enrolled her son in the Head Start program, but the playground wasn’t adequate for his needs – due to spinal bifida, he had to crawl, and was getting splinters in his hands from the playground’s bark ground cover. Kat and her family spent a weekend replacing the ground cover with a child-friendly version. Wendy recalls: “Kat and her family went above her job description to prepare the environment so my son could go to school there.”

Kat with a child-sized puppet from RFENC’s diverse-ability awareness & anti-bullying puppet presentations, available to schools and groups for children ages preschool-3rd grade.

While working at Head Start, Kat met Debbie Rowell, past executive director of Support Education & Advocacy (SEA) agency, now renamed Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California in her honor. The agency originated in Butte County (currently there’s an outreach office in Chico), and Debbie and Kat were working on completing an application for a grant to open a Redding office when Debbie passed away. Kat and the board completed the application, and received the grant funding in March 2002. The Redding office opened, and Kat became its manager. Soon after she became RFENC’s executive director.

Kat’s husband Stan, now retired, provides a great deal of support to Kat in her work. To maintain balance in her life, Kat exercises, meditates, expresses gratitude for her life, and regrets nothing. “When looking back, I can see the quilt of life and how all the pieces fit together,” she says. With that philosophy, it’s no wonder she has such a winning smile!

To contact Kat or RFENC ( call: Butte (530) 899-8801 or Redding (530) 226-5129.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]Our Be the Change column mission is to feature those, especially from the North State, who are actively making a difference in the lives of children and families. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to [/sws_blue_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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