Your Neighbor: Meet Parks Engstrom

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — “You never know how one decision can influence your journey in life,” said Parks Engstrom. 

Growing up as the youngest of three siblings, Engstrom learned early on in her immediate family how a strong support system and education were imperative to her growth. 

“Knowing how influential a good education was, I thought when I left Raleigh to attend Appalachian State University (ASU) that I would study elementary education,” Engstrom said. “I took a child development class as an elective, and I was immediately drawn to it. The course focused on brain development, how children learn, and I was fascinated with that aspect. I knew I wanted to work with children, but I realized I didn’t want to be in a classroom setting as a teacher. That sparked an interest that would lead me to where I am today.” 

Engstrom knew that she wanted to help children maximize their potential. She also knew that she wanted to travel and seek out adventures while the timing was right. After graduating from ASU with a bachelor of science in child development, she headed to Seoul, Korea. 

“I knew I wanted to try new cultures and see new places, and I found a program that would pay all of your expenses if you taught English, Engstrom said. “I did that for a year and loved that experience.” 

When Engstrom came home from her experience, all of her family and friends gathered to welcome her back and hear about her time abroad. 

“One of my friends from college came to the party,” Engstrom said. “It ended up being my future husband, Adam who had also been a friend from ASU. We had the same group of mutual friends, and something was different at that time in life. We realized we had so much in common and started dating.”

While their friendship had blossomed into a courtship, Engstrom had applied and gotten into ASU again for a master of arts program which focused on child development: birth – kindergarten. Once she and Adam finished their respective programs, they both embraced their adventurous spirit and decided to live in Denver, Colorado. 

“We didn’t have children at that point, and we both just wanted to try something new,” Engstrom said. “While we lived there, we would take so many fun trips together. If we weren’t working, we would go camping or skiing. We just embraced being outside and enjoying nature and the opportunities we had to explore that part of the United States as a newly married couple.”

Engstrom had found that her focus in school was paying off too. 

“I was a service coordinator for children with development disabilities and delays under 3 years old during that time,” Engstrom said. “I helped set their goals, monitor their progress, and if they needed accommodations like speech or occupational therapy, would set that up for them. I began seeing in real life how being on the side of providing resources was so rewarding to these children and the families that loved them.” 

After a couple of years away from North Carolina, both Adam and Parks began thinking about starting a family. 

“We knew that we wanted to be near family once we did start to have children,” Engstrom said. “Adam’s grandparents lived in a home in Clemmons West and had started thinking about moving to Florida full-time. They joked about us buying their home when they made it a permanent move. We then began to strongly consider it, and made the leap to come to Clemmons.

“It’s been such a wonderful community to raise Mary Grey (8) and Wesley (6).”

When Engstrom moved back to North Carolina, she began working at Family Services. 

“I had worked full-time before having my kids, and then once they were born, I cut that back to part-time,” Engstrom said. “It was during my time at Family Services that I had fallen in love with teaching in a different way that I had expected. They had a program that I worked in called The Incredible Years. We would train teachers in this program, and then the teachers would go out and implement the strategies we provided in their classroom.” 

Once her children got older and in school longer during the day, Engstrom decided to increase the amount she worked outside the home. 

“I began doing similar work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro through a grant-funded program, Bringing Out the Best,” Engstrom said. “My role was to go in and provide consultation with teachers and parents on how to best support the child who was having extremely challenging behaviors. I would recommend strategies to increase their social-emotional development. The training component was so rewarding to me.”

However, with her own children needing her time and attention, Engstrom realized her commute from Clemmons to Greensboro was challenging. 

“When an opportunity to work at Forsyth Tech Community College that checked all of my boxes was open, I couldn’t refuse it,” Engstrom said. “I’m currently teaching early childhood development classes. I’ll have been there for about two years in the fall. I love my students. They are so eager to learn and help children in our community one day. I also have the advantage of being a 9-month employee, so there is flexibility with my children’s school schedules, too. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to evolve in what is my passion and turn it into a career.”

The flexibility in her schedule has really allowed her to ensure she gets that much-needed time with her children and family, too. 

“Things stay busy at our house,” Engstrom said. “We all enjoy being outside or walking our dogs. Mostly, what brings us the most happiness is just being together.”