2008 MHS graduate serves as a
bilingual counselor in her hometown
Something clicked for Lydia (Kosbau) Youngdahl when she was a student at Central College in Pella. The 2008 Marshalltown High School graduate found her passion and her hometown now reaps the benefits.
Youngdahl already had an interest in the Spanish language and as she enrolled in sociology and psychology courses at Central she found her calling – working in counseling with Spanish speaking families.
And there is no shortage of that type of work in the diverse community of Marshalltown. Since 2015, she has worked as a bilingual family counselor for YSS, which is also known as Youth and Shelter Services or Youth Standing Strong.
Lydia works with families who have youth in juvenile courts and also conducts in-home counseling for at-risk youth through referrals from schools.
“I love being able to speak Spanish and provide a service to families that wouldn’t otherwise get it,” Youngdahl said. “I really like seeing my families succeed and being able to get the things they need.”
Since she is both a Spanish speaker and a counselor, there is no need to bring along an interpreter as is the case many times when counselors visit homes of Spanish speakers.
“It builds a trust and speeds up the work,” Youngdahl said.
When she is not providing these needed services, the 2012 Central College graduate also gives back by helping with an afterschool program through Grace Church known as The Big House.
David Hicks, director of YSS of Marshall County who is also a graduate of MHS, said he sees Lydia as a valued member of the YSS staff.
“She represents the very best of our agency’s values and mission,” Hicks said. “Lydia was recently chosen by her colleagues for having demonstrated outstanding compassion through her work as our bilingual counselor.”
Diversity in Marshalltown
Youngdahl said the diversity of Marshalltown helped her grow and become the person she is today.
“The diversity in Marshalltown Schools is a huge benefit to kids,” she said. “You learn so much about the world and about yourself when you learn about other people’s culture and background. It creates a more well-rounded individual when you are able to do that.”
She said she had many inspirational teachers through the years in Marshalltown and noted that just a few were MHS Spanish teachers Tonia Emerson and James Christensen and social studies teacher Tim Johnson. All three still teach at MHS.
“The foreign language department at MHS is really strong,” Youngdahl said.
Lydia plans to enroll in a three-year online program to become licensed in mental health therapy. It appears her career goals and the needs of her community will once again align.
“There’s a huge need for mental health therapy for Spanish speakers here,” Youngdahl said. “I want to be able to continue to help people.”
As with any community, she heard her fellow students in high school talk about how they can’t wait to leave Marshalltown. In Lydia’s case, she couldn’t wait to get back.
“I knew that I needed to come back and serve here,” she said.