Executive Director, Merrimack County Advocacy Center

Birthplace: Exeter

Family: Mom, Ann Cottrell; dad, Larry Cottrell; numerous cousins and friends who truly make my family a complete (large, loud and loving) unit.

High school: Alvirne High School

College/post grad degrees: Bachelor of Arts from St. Anselm College

What is the best career advice you ever received?

To just be myself! I was once told in the beginning of my career that I have great teachers and leaders to follow, but that I need to be me and no one else can be Bethany. They said that I can have many mentors, but my authenticity and success will shine stronger and brighter if I am true to myself.

Why did you choose your profession?

I always wanted to be an attorney working with children in need. I even took my LSATs and was applying for law school. I had been working for lawyers since high school to narrow down my focus more. One of the attorneys I worked for was a Guardian ad Litem and on the board of directors for the local Child Advocacy Center. He told to me to apply for an internship because he thought it would be a great fit. I truly found my passion and my professional calling. Working with victims of abuse, especial vulnerable victims of sexual abuse, giving them a voice, support and helping them on their journey to healing and justice – I could not see myself doing anything else. I continue to feel that way, which is why I am expanding that work to helping victims of human trafficking. These vulnerable populations, with extreme trauma histories and lack of support need our help. I believe there is a niche or career path for everyone. People often say, “I don’t know how you do your job,” but honestly, I cannot see myself doing anything else. I guess this profession sort of chose me.

What motivates you to give back to your community?

Truthfully, I don’t know how not to. I would be bored if I was not volunteering or working to give back in one way or another. It is truly what drives me in this world. Everyone has a story, a past, difficult things they have been through, and often it is just one person who shows them the light or gives them the support they need to make the change they need and then hopefully to pay it forward. If I can be that for someone, it is going to make our community better as a whole. Also, there is often a physical difference in people when you take a burden off their shoulders, when a child feels safe enough to tell you their deepest, darkest secret, when a victim knows they have a safe place to sleep for a night, when you are able to provide a Christmas Tree and a bag of gifts for Christmas morning, or provide gift cards that will buy groceries for the month, a weight is lifted and the person can walk a little straighter or with a brighter light in their eyes. I think everyone deserves that opportunity in life.

What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

“Keep doing you” — don’t settle and don’t let the “norm” hold you down or hold you back. Everyone’s path and journey is different, and I believe my success and support in the community has grown because I kept pushing forward, even if it wasn’t the norm. I look around at my friends, peers and coworkers, and when I identify those who I find as successful or who empower me and make me want to do better, I believe it is because they “keep doing them.” I guess it is about being authentic and genuine and knowing that you will find your passion and what fuels you by doing what makes you happy. That is true in your professional life AND in your personal life.

What would make New Hampshire more attractive to young professionals?

I am not sure why more young professionals are not attracted to New Hampshire, I am a New Hampshire girl through and through. I think we have so many great opportunities, areas for career growth, ways to have fun, all the seasons and activities that brings (I’m a huge fan of boating and snowmobiling). It has always felt to me like you can do everything you want to here – work and fun – there are a lot of opportunities to have that necessary work/life balance. Hoping others start to see and embrace that as well.

What would you like to be doing when you’re 40?

The same thing I am doing now. Just more – bigger, making a greater impact on victims, families and ultimately our communities in New Hampshire. I want to continue working in the Child Advocacy Center model, working with Multi-Disciplinary Teams, supporting victims and seeing justice. I want to be celebrating the five-year anniversary of Brigid’s House of Hope – the First Safe House for Victims of Human Trafficking in New Hampshire. I want to be working with amazing and dedicated team members to say we are able to provide housing for juvenile victims of trafficking as well and developing and implementing that program. As long as there are vulnerable victims, I want to be working on a team of dedicated professionals supporting those victims and educating our community on how to better support our children, our community and empower each other to stop (or decrease) the cycles of violence and abuse that we see.

Volunteer activities: Founder/board member, Brigid’s House of Hope; USMC Toys for Tots, 2008-13, Volunteer Co-Coordinator; Humane Society of Greater Nashua, 2009-11, board member; Front Door Agency, Santa Fund, Christmas Shopper.

Last major achievement: Founding Brigid’s House of Hope – the first Safe House for Victims of Human Trafficking in New Hampshire. I identified amazing board members, started the paperwork, and now we are working towards opening the doors and supporting a very vulnerable population in New Hampshire.