Genevieve N. Waller

January 25, 2010 

Her job: Executive director, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands

Age: 32

Family: Husband, Edward

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Louisiana Tech University; law degree from USC

Community/professional involvement: Association of Fundraising Professionals; Lexington County Health Partners; Voices Against Violence Committee chairwoman; S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; Sexual Assault Interest Group Chair; S.C. Women Lawyer's Association; United Way of the Midlands, CEO Association; USC Women and Gender Studies Partnership Council

Her story: After law school, Waller served as a law clerk to a circuit court judge, as staff attorney to the state Court of Appeals and as litigator with an insurance defense firm. She has served in numerous volunteer leadership roles within the S.C. Bar and was named the S.C. Bar Young Lawyer of the Year in 2008.

After five years of practice, Waller decided to help survivors of sexual violence through nonprofit administration and development. She managed to raise more than $100,000 for the non-profit last year.

What saying does she live by? "Everything is always OK in the end. If it's not OK, then it's not the end."

Her life changed when ... "I was raped. This one incident changed my life forever. Several years passed before I could turn my life back around. When I did, I was more driven to excel, was more self-aware and had a passion for helping others."

How did she recover after failing at something? "In elementary school, I desperately wanted to be a cheerleader more than anything in this world. I tried out three years in a row for various squads with no success. Failing time and again - despite personal coaches, gymnastics lessons and hours of practice - only pushed me to try harder. And the fourth time was the charm. In many ways, I believe this struggle defined my determinative attitude, which ultimately shaped my entire life."

How did she make the switch from a law firm to a nonprofit? "Four years out of law school, my newly acquired career counselor pointed out the obvious: What I liked most about law school and law were the volunteer and social opportunities they afforded me, and that I derived the most pleasure from work that I found meaningful.

"Now, I work for a mission I passionately believe in, with a staff that daily inspires me, and in a position that makes a tremendous, positive impact on people's lives. For anyone who is seriously questioning their purpose in life, I recommend that you ask yourself if you are truly a happy person and then find the courage to change if the answer is 'no.'"

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