Meet Kortney Santilli - Class of 2023

Valerie Weber:  So, welcome to CLN!

Kortney Santilli:  Thank you.

VW:  Congratulations on being in this year’s class.

KS:  It’s been really fun. Yeah. Like I always said, I never wanted to leave college. I just wanted to be a forever student, and I am at a college now, for five years working at JCC. Being in CLN, it’s been great to be back in a classroom and learning and taking notes. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world.

VW:  So you’re liking being at the seven-month point rather than we’re almost done?

KS: Yeah, I’ll be sad when it’s over. Every session’s been really like pivotal. I’ve had some really big takeaways that I’ve implemented immediately after, so it’s wonderful. 

VW:  So what’s the one thing that’s made the most impact?

KS:  Recently, it was Simone Sellstrom’s conflict resolution class. I learned about my conflict style, which was avoidant. There’s a place and a time for that, but I’ve been in a couple circumstances recently where I was like, I don’t want to avoid this actually, I want to confront it head-on and get it taken care of and move through it. And so, the literal next day after that session, having learned that about myself, I just went straight in head-on and addressed it and I’ve been better for it. So, it’s really cool.

VW:  Great, that’s wonderful! It’s always good to learn something that you can apply right away.

KS:  I can’t say it enough, it was a game changer, because it every day now pops into my head: am I avoiding this or is it a conflict that I can quickly resolve?

VW:  How did you end up in this year’s class? Did someone recommend it to you?

KS:  Yeah, my former boss, who has since left, she was the Director of Marketing and Communications —  Jody Perrin. She’s been involved in CLN for a long time and was really pushing for Karli Champ, who went through last year, and then pushed for me to go through this year. She is a huge believer in it, and I now know why! I’m very fortunate that she wanted to push me through and saw the value in that. Since Jody left, I’ve become the interim Director of Marketing and Communications, so CLN has been very helpful for this transition that I had no idea was coming! 

VW:  If you had a song that played when you walked into a room, what would you pick?

KS:  That’s kind of an impossible ask because there’s so many good ones! 

VW:  There are so many good ones. 

KS:  Yeah, like I have a bunch of favorite bands but I’m like are any of these songs me? The first one that comes top of mind, and I don’t know why, is “Meet Virginia” – sure, we’ll go with “Meet Virginia” by Train, for right now! But I’m going to think about that for my future self. What song do I want to play? 

VW: If you could choose anybody in the world, to be your mentor?

KS:  That’s another tough one. 

VW:  That’s a big one, too.

KS:   I feel like I have everyday mentors. I’m constantly learning from every single person that I’m interacting with day-to-day. So I don’t know that I would want it to be one person. I like learning that way from so many different perspectives. That’s one of my second skills. My first is communication, my second is input, and I’m always gathering information. So, I think truly every interaction there’s some sort of level of mentorship or something that I’m gaining from that. 

VW: Outside of CLN and JCC, who are you?

KS:  I am a huge mental health advocate. I try to bring that into my everyday work life and with all of my friends. I feel honestly proud that I touted how amazing counseling and therapy was so much that many of my friends during our friendship have found therapists and go to counseling. So, that’s a huge passion of mine. And, I do lots of research and learning, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my mental health and continue that practice.

So, what goes hand-in-hand with that is I practice a lot of yoga. I go to many fitness classes. I teach barre exercise classes at Lotus Healing Center.  It all marries together, you know? That’s how I stay happy and content in my life. And, I’ve really grown that network of other instructors and like-minded people. When I graduated from college, and I moved back home, I had spent a semester abroad in Italy. The reverse culture shock was really hard, and not being in college anymore. I danced classical ballet for like 15 years. So, it was just a huge transition period where I was missing dance, and I was missing travel, and that’s when I fell in love with yoga and started meeting all of my friends, and we’ve stayed great friends ever since. That group keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I love it. 

VW:  So, Introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?

KS:  It really depends on the situation, so probably ambivert. I always think I’m introverted until I start talking to somebody. Then they’re like, no, you’re really extroverted, so it’s very dependent. I think it’s also dependent on the personality types or styles in the room. Sometimes I will totally clam up and like this isn’t my space, these aren’t my people. But, other times, when, when they are my people, I’m an extravert.

VW: Which class was your favorite so far?

KS:  My favorite one was when we were at Long Point. We had Dee from Loud Performance, Bryce and Rachel from the Bemus Point Golf Course and Tap House, the woman that oversees our parks in Chautauqua County, and Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. The reason I love that session the most is it inspired my love of the area we live in, again, and so hard. To learn about how many miles and miles and miles of trails we have, you know – equestrian, waterways, hiking paths, biking paths – it was so cool. And to hear Dee say like I’ve traveled all over, I’ve been all over, and this area is second to none in terms of everything that you have at your fingertips in your backyard. So, it really inspired me to get back out there. I love being in nature, I love hiking. I’ve been biking with my husband a little bit more – I’m a little unstable on my bike, so we stay on the road! But it has been fun to just explore and be a tourist in my own community. It really did it just spark that passion of love for everything that we have here. That was a big one for me. I was so excited to go home and tell my husband everything I learned. We went and golfed, right after that – I used to work at the Bemus Point Golf Course and I’ve never golfed there. So it just gave me this whole like list of things I wanted to go do immediately, then we started doing them.

VW:  That’s great. Yeah, so that leads the segway into: what would be the one thing that if people asked about Chautauqua County, you would be proudest of or recommend the most? 

KS:  I would send any and everybody to the Comedy Center, because it’s incredible. We’re so fortunate to have that in our community. It’s incredibly impressive and nobody should sleep on that. I love it there, I’ve been a million times, and I still keep finding things that I didn’t know were there, so that’s just quite an experience. All of all of the options that there are, endless options that cost no money. Just go walk outside. Go kayak. Whatever it is. Go wander. So yeah, I think that our green spaces. We have a big international population of students that come to JCC, and that’s what they love about it here and what, they were completely surprised by when they arrived, is how green it is, how immersed nature you are. You know, a lot of them grew up in cities and have never had the amount of grass and trees that we do, you know?

VW:  Thank you very much!

KS:  You’re so welcome!

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