Hello, Victoria. I’m glad to be interviewing you.

So, my first question for you is that being recognized as one of the 20 under 40 rising stars by Leadership Kitsap is a significant achievement. How do you feel about this honor? And how do you believe it reflects your contributions to the Kitsap County community?


So, I am Victoria Hilt and often how I like to describe myself is that I am a people and I do things with other people. I am a people on my own and yet the best impact that I make as a people is when I’m doing it with other people, whatever the purpose is. So, who am I in this community? You know, I am a parent in this community. And so that gives me a certain perspective. I live in a neighborhood of this community. And so I see myself in a position with them.

And then I live in Bremerton. So outside of my neighborhood, but then Bremerton is in Kitsap County. So, I see myself and all the different ways this is my community. I even see myself extended through my child because what I do impacts her and how she impacts her peers based on how we interact affects a different community. And so, I still see myself connected to that younger community. And they think I’m a cool mom.

So that’s, that’s a great achievement.

So, I see myself in connection to the community in all of those different ways. And all my experiences in Kitsap County fall back to me as a parent because I didn’t get comfortable in this community until I found out I was pregnant. And that was the day that I was like, I need a community. Oh my gosh. So, until that moment I lived here, but I didn’t have people here. I didn’t, I wasn’t part of anything bigger than maybe my coworkers and simply as a matter of proximity.

How do I feel about the honor that has been placed on me by leadership Kitsap as 20 under 40? I feel a lot of things:

I feel grateful for the opportunity to be recognized. I feel humbled to be called out amongst these amazing stars. And I feel like it’s actually not about me. It’s about how we create something bigger than ourselves, which leads to your previous question, which is that it directly affects my community contributions. Because everything I do is because of how much this community has given to me in terms of opportunity, chances and help.

This community has embraced my family. And so, everything that I do is a direct reflection of my desire to make sure that other people have that same opportunity, receive that same help, receive that same embrace. So, they know the benefit of community too.


Great. I have a quick question because you made me curious. Also, thank you for being so open. You were talking about this kind of impact like how you see yourself extended in the perspective of our social structures, right? And the impact and the example you provide for your kid and how they affect their peers and everything.

Can we say that as individuals, we initiate a sequence of impacts within our community when we are motivated by love? From your depiction of the community’s role in aiding you and your reciprocation in assisting the community, it appears to be driven by a response of love. I wouldn’t characterize it as merely a reaction, as it feels instinctual, but rather as an expression of love imbued with purpose.


Yes. And I would be remiss to say that, you know, I see the ripples that I’m creating, and they didn’t start with me. And so, I’m a part of a bigger ripple and, and yes, you know, more ripples are happening as a result of what I do. And I am a result of somebody else’s ripple. And I, I just, that point is, is always present in my mind. And I always remember that because my grandparents took me in when I was young, and they are the ones that really showed me how community can be family. 

Even when you don’t feel like you have family or even when you have family and you feel disconnected, your community is family. And that love that you’re talking about was shown to me. And I think that’s the only reason I’m able to show it to other people. So, yes, I see how my love is expressed in the community. And I don’t know that I would be able to do that if it had not been shown to me, if I had not been embraced, I probably wouldn’t even have the skills to do it. So, YES.


That’s beautiful. It kind of shows us that we have to love in order that love can continue, you know, within our community. Thank you so much. Let me pass to my next question.

So, I got this from my team, they shared with me that your experience highlights roles as a parent ambassador representing KCR from what I understood with the Washington State Association for Head Start. You also have been a former head start Policy Council parent and previous member of the KCR board, which is a lot of important activity. Can you share your personal journey and tell us about the impact you aimed to make in these roles or the challenges that you found?


Probably yes at various times, and sometimes concurrently, I have held those positions or represented KCR in one way or another at the national state and local level. Again, it, it all goes back to deciding like I am a parent like this is happening. I can’t hide from it. I can’t run from it. And what many people don’t know about me is that when I was pregnant, I struggled with communicating.

So I struggled to speak physically. I had many thoughts, but I couldn’t express them. And my biggest fear was that I would be ill prepared to teach my child how to speak. And that scared me, and it also made me think about everything that I was doing. If I, I’m supposed to be the one to lead and guide this being, I need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk literally.

I struggled for the first six months of my pregnancy for various reasons. And then I found community and I went through the Early Head Start program. I had a home visitor that helped me for a little bit. The pregnancy resource center also helped me a little bit, which I don’t know if they still exist under that name. But basically, I wanted all the help I could get, and I reached out and I was like, please help me with everything I just was like, please give me all the information that you have on what it means to be a parent. I need step by step instructions and everyone told me there weren’t any and there’s no book I could read.

I mean, there’s tons of books I could read about parenting, but none of them are going to be exactly what I need because each child is different and each situation is different and each, you know, all the things that, now I understand a little bit better, learning how to advocate for myself as a pregnant person trying to figure out how to be prepared for an infant, I think is what set me up for success to do those things. My home visitor had a lot of confidence in me a lot and she knew how to encourage me without putting too much pressure or fear.

And instead, it was just like, are you interested in attending this meeting? And I was like, I don’t know, what is it? Are you interested in participating in this advocacy day? I don’t know. What is that? What does that mean for me? What is this? I don’t understand.

But she was with me every step of the way. And I think her confidence and encouragement encouraged me to just keep going. So, parent ambassador, I was on the WASCAP board too, Policy Council and the KCR board.

And I found that each time I was in one of these situations, there was an opportunity to speak up that seemed directly related to what I was experiencing or what I had heard other parents experiencing and I spoke up, I used my voice which I had just acquired again. And each time I was encouraged to keep doing that. And I think that gave me confidence to do it. 

I was able to see how these small, yet significant things that I was doing were giving me courage to be a more active and involved parent. So, everything that I was doing went back to my parenting. So, it all goes back to, I got pregnant, and I didn’t know what to do. And instead of deciding I’ll just copy what everybody before me has done.

I said, I don’t know what I’m doing, please help me and somebody said I will help you. And that is what sort of molded me to take on these positions and more like when I was on the Bremerton Housing Authority Board as well. So, all those things, all because my home visitor had confidence in me. 


I will still ignore the script. I want to ask you something. You said something very beautiful. I found out community in the sense that you were not aware regarding the power of community as you were explaining prior to your pregnancy. And then when you decided to ask for help, you said you found out community after seeing all these people and the resources out there that could help you.

I suppose you also feel a sense of belonging in the community after experiencing that?



And I mean, this was back in 2011. And so, at that time, the Housing Solutions Center wasn’t completely formed. And in order to be a part of any like resource, you had to go to their office and apply and then wait and then they would call you. And so it was like this long extensive process for everything. And once I started asking for help and people said this is what I can help you with.

It gave me encouragement to say, ok, great like that need has been met or that concern, that question is addressed. Now, I know that asking for help with this thing is acceptable, right? And somebody is saying, I’m sorry, I don’t have anything for that doesn’t mean that my question is invalid. It means that they don’t have the answer or the ability to help me, but they still encourage me that that’s a valid question or a valid need. 

How do we address that? And so yeah, each time I was accepted and that gave me a sense of belonging. And when I was around other parents that spread amongst us in that parent group because it was encouraged to ask the questions because they’re valid, we might not have the answers but ask the questions. And so yeah, I started feeling a sense of community that I hadn’t had since I lived with my grandparents when I was young.


Do you believe it’s beneficial for groups involved in shaping community wellness initiatives, such as boards and agencies, to include individuals who possess firsthand experience and understanding of the community’s resources and challenges? Considering your transition into positions of influence, where you’re tasked with taking a broader perspective, strategizing, and implementing initiatives, how essential do you think it is to have participants who intimately know the inner workings of the system and its available resources?


I believe that everyone has a certain area of expertise, and everyone has something to contribute to the ultimate picture. It’s actually something that I talk about a lot in my work with kids at Kitsap Strong, which I might be skipping ahead. But I ask people to imagine that our community is a puzzle and each one of us is a puzzle piece. And even though alone, the puzzle pieces look like colors when you put them together, it creates a picture that shows the multiple strengths and ways that we connect. And whenever you remove a piece of that puzzle and try to exist without it, the puzzle is weaker as a result. If you try to pick up a puzzle that has pieces missing in the middle, it just falls apart, You are more likely to have success if it’s completed to hold it up or put it on a different board or something like that.

So, it’s stronger together literally. And if we imagine our community in that way, each one of our puzzle pieces has a different perspective. So we’re connected to different pieces, we’re connected to different colors. We’re connected to different aspects. Somebody might have a tree on their puzzle piece and someone else might have a road, but we all have an expertise to contribute.

And I think that my personal experiences allowed me to see a system that existed from my perspective, my puzzle piece and I was given an opportunity to share about those experiences. And so yes, I think that that sort of model of saying you’re going through this, can you tell us what that was like is essential in order to be successful? Because without that perspective, you only have certain puzzle pieces that have a certain expertise and it’s weaker, there’s nothing wrong with it not being completed. We’re all a work in progress including our communities. But often when we have a pile of puzzle pieces, and the piece we’re looking for is there. We just can’t see it. And the thing we need to make that edge piece and finish that tree is there. It’s probably flipped over. It’s connected to a different piece right now because somebody put it in the wrong spot.

And it doesn’t really fit there, but we kind of thought it did. And that’s how I see our community. And that has developed through my experiences in all the different organizations, resources systems trying to navigate what it means to survive. And anybody who has experience, in my opinion, has something to contribute to that ultimate puzzle. 

So, if you’re working on a specific issue, that puzzle looks different than the bigger puzzle of the community. But there are still those individual pieces that you need. And so yes, that personal experience helps. I will say that the other thing that we need to consider when we’re thinking about sort of like this lived experience idea is that just because somebody might have experience with a certain specific situation does not mean that that is their only experience, right?

They are their entire puzzle piece. And so every experience leading up until that all contributes to how they experience that system or that resource or that help. And that goes back to the ripples that I was talking about. If my grandparents had not instilled that perspective upon me, that the community can be an extension of your family, I might not be where I am today. 

We can’t really say, but that allowed me to accept help at a time where maybe somebody else who didn’t have that might not be able to still a valid experience, but it’s different and all of it plays into how we interact with each other.


Reflecting on your journey, what pivotal moment or realization had the most significant impact on shaping your commitment to community service and advocacy? I think you talked a lot, a little bit about two episodes. I would say that was the pregnancy and your grandparents in the sense of what they transmitted as knowledge and the perspective on community to you. But I’m open to you sharing maybe a little bit more or something else that you find interesting and inspiring at the same time to share with us?


I think a lot of times when people think about community or advocacy or like making a difference, they think it has to be this big, like big action that everyone can see and what maybe they don’t realize is, and I’m going to say it again, those small yet significant things that we do every day that make a huge difference. And I remember not really understanding what advocacy was like the definition.

And I was like, I don’t see how this applies to me. I don’t have this, I don’t understand how this fits with me being a parent. Like I’m very confused and then I was in a training that my home visitor was sitting with me like, hey, let’s just listen and they said, you know, when have you spoken up for something that was really important to you. And the first thing that I could think of was sitting in DSHS for six hours with an infant trying to explain to them my situation and have them understand why I needed food stamps. Six hours with an infant. It is not an easy feat. And is that a reflection on our systems? Yes. And it also reflects my commitment to staying there. I saw many people get up and walk out that day when I was in the office and I still remember it because while I was in that training, I was like, oh, it was like that one day when I went and did the thing and yes, exactly. It’s the big things, but also the small things and it’s all the things in between.

But until I made that connection, I didn’t really think it affected me. Like I didn’t think I affected anything. I didn’t think it mattered. Now, I know that those experiences help shape families maybe five years down the road. The change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. And so those significant things stick with me. 


As a parent of Early Head Start and Head start – How did your experience, shape your perspective on community initiatives and advocacy for Children and families?


I kind of said a lot already, but I will say that learning about child development as a parent and different parenting styles sparked curiosity in me and made me want to know more and I think that contributed a lot to my participation. Because everywhere I went, I wanted more answers. What else can you tell me? What else can you, what information can you give me that will help me understand this better?

As a result of, you know, learning just a little bit through my home visitors and the preschool teachers and you know, all the different people, I started going back to school to learn about child development. That was interesting to me. But then I found out I like the administration of childcare more than going down the path to becoming a teacher.

And then I was back in the policy realm and I keep finding myself back in policies and understanding the bigger picture of the small things that are happening and how they connect. So, my experiences and the people encouraged me to keep asking questions and keep learning more. And I think that shaped a lot about what I do. Now, my curiosity about the developing brain trauma in the brain, how the brain reacts, why we react the way we do, how our actions can help someone change, how they react, how we can pause and respond instead of reacting, and all of those things are a main thing that I have tried to always learn about.  I view community initiatives and what to, what I choose to advocate for and how I interact with people.


So, your current role is a Kitsap Strong Communities Facilitator, right?


Yes, Strong Communities Facilitator.


Let me ask you – What are some of key initiatives or projects you’ve been part of or led that have positively influenced the health, well-being, and overall welfare of children, families, or the community in Kitsap?


So, I see my position with Kitsap Strong as a bridge and a people doing things with people and building relationships. And the reason why that’s really important is because in order to discover what the community thinks is important and what people think is important, you have to be with people and they have to trust you to know that what they do with you is not for personal gain.

It is not a business plan. It is not going to, you know, they’re not going to be a token parent. They’re not going to be a token child. They are important and what they say and do matters. And the only way to do that is through relationship building and then once I have someone’s trust, they’ll tell me things, and I can bridge them to what they need as resources. Got you. Let’s go. Other people got that. Let’s go!

If I’m talking to a community partner, they’re like, yeah, we’re finding it hard to connect with Blank. OK. Interesting. Because I have some people that I would think would fit that specific group that you’re trying to reach. So, let me reach out to them, bridge the two of you and see if that’s a partnership that might work.

It’s all about building partnerships. But being that warm connects that that person who understands both sides. And as an example of that, there are community partners and resources in Kitsap County that want to work with parents and think they know how they want to do it and how to get people involved.

But for some reason, they seem to keep attracting moms, they seem to keep attracting individuals that have Children with developmental needs, right? That are sort of outside of neurotypical needs. And so, they keep attracting the same type of parents while they recognize we have a vastly diverse and complex community here.

And these same 10 parents, these same families that keep coming to us probably don’t represent everyone. So how do we reach those other people? And so one of the things that I first heard after I came into this role, I went out to the community, I’m meeting with people. I’m just saying like, hey, what’s important, what’s going on as a community?

Where is the gap? We want to partner with fathers? We know they’re there, but we don’t know how to engage with them. And I don’t think people realize how difficult it is for a resource or a partner, a community agency to say, we don’t know how to do this. That’s kind of a hard thing to admit even as an individual, let alone an agency. So, I’m out in community, I’m hearing partners saying these things and saying, we just don’t know how to do this.

I’m also hearing fathers say I just don’t seem to have anything for me in this community. No one cares what happens to me. No one cares what I think. No one cares what I feel. No one cares what I’m going through. There is no support and no one wants to work with me and that is how it feels and that’s valid. And I happen to know some people who might want to kind of help bridge that and maybe, you know, help heal that relationship.

And so that’s been one of the things that I’ve been working with is trying to encourage fathers to say, hey, we’re here and have resources, say, hey, what are we doing wrong? Teach us, tell us what, you know, and we will partner with you to make it better. And that’s one of the things in the process.

Of course, I’m also talking about like, oh, is this trauma informed approach? Are we using people centered language? Have you considered what they’re going through? Are their basic needs being met? Like, do they have the capacity to volunteer their time? If they’re in survival mode, they will not be able to do that quite frankly. If your basic needs are not met, you cannot expend your energy elsewhere. And we may know that as a general concept but really putting it to an organization and saying, like, have you checked, puts it into a different perspective and its in a way that they trust me, we have a relationship. And so I’m able to say, have a chat. Now, let’s check.

Let’s just ask because what’s the worst thing that somebody could say if you ask – no, and if they say no, it’s not a reflection of your question. It’s a reflection of their capacity or their ability to trust what you’ll do with that information. So that’s one thing, one of the many things I’m working on. 


If you allow me, I will just add a comment. The explanation of your role gives the impression of building bridges through small, thoughtful gestures. Organizational perspectives often overlook individual potential, which is where your approach differs. You prioritize seeing people’s full potential and aspirations. While organizations struggle with knowing the community in depth, your work aims to bridge that gap, enabling both individuals and organizations to better understand themselves and connect on a deeper level. Is that true?


Yes, I firmly believe that people do great things with other people. And I understand having expertise in a specific area – for example, some people are good with numbers, accountants, and do finance, and I am glad they exist because I want to think about the brain and how it responds, right?

So, you do you and I’ll do me and you’re still a people and the people that you work with are still people and the people they work with are still people.

And so, at the core of everything, we’re all people. But we are people and we are stronger together, and I firmly believe that and when we remember ourselves as people and connect with people, one on one, we’re more likely to succeed, whether it’s the finance person, whether it’s the HR person, whether it’s the individual working with Children in the classroom, whether it’s the grocery store clerk, I mean, literally that is how I see the world.  

Approaching people as people – this is my job, and this is what I will do. Like I love that you have that expertise and there are times you have to put that hat on and you’re still people at the core. And if we remember that, I think we connect stronger. 


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