From Pandemic’s Depths, A New Passion
Emma Baldwin is a training coordinator at Proof Alliance and serves on ICI’s Community Advisory Council.
Like a lot of college students, Emma Baldwin (they/she) struggled in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to mental health issues and a new autism diagnosis, as well as having a close family member with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), it was all a bit much. Even a dream study abroad stint in London was cut short by the pandemic lockdowns.
“As we all got sent home, it became clear just how dysregulated everything became,” Baldwin said. “If you struggle with emotional regulation in general, you were a goner for a couple of years.”
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in technical writing and communications, they went home to California for a short time to regroup.
“Ultimately, I knew I loved Minnesota and was ready to take a step in a definitive direction.”
That step led to St. Paul early last year, and a job as a training coordinator at Proof Alliance, an organization focused on preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The organization, which had helped Baldwin’s family in the past, delivers prenatal alcohol exposure awareness and education to pregnant individuals, those living with FASD, families, and others.
“There’s a lot of stigma associated with FASD that we don’t have with autism, and that speaks to the complexity of neurodiversity,” they said. “The bottom line is that in my work we are caring for the people most likely to fall through systemic cracks, and I think we’re pretty good at communicating that in our trainings.”
Baldwin is also actively serving on the Institute’s Community Advisory Council, offering expertise and feedback on critical initiatives, and on the St. Paul Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities.
Recently, they led a training session on FASD for about 35 school paraprofessionals that was as uplifting for Baldwin as it was for those in the audience.
“I really loved working with them because they were so receptive and ready to go. I kept hearing people saying they were going to go out and use what they learned the next day,” they said. “Hearing them in real time applying these strategies to specific kids with specific needs was so energizing.”
Macdonald Metzger, the Institute’s director of outreach, said Baldwin provided insightful guidance earlier this year on some new initiatives the Institute is working on to engage community partners.
“Emma joining the CAC has brought new life and an intergenerational worldview to the CAC,” Metzger said.
Lately, they’ve been grasping just how perfectly the Proof Alliance role fits with who they are.
“Working in this space lets me see how my brother and people like him are affected everyday by FASD, and I get to pull from my own experiences with autism to help convey my expertise,” they said. “It feels good to create something out of just what’s in me.”