Mayghin Levine is the new director of programs at The Cabbage Patch. | Courtesy of The Cabbage Patch

Old Louisville’s Cabbage Patch Settlement House was founded in 1910 and continues to equip and empower at-risk youth throughout the community to this day. The invaluable nonprofit serves about 1,000 kids and their families each year by providing both everyday essentials and lifelong tools they can use to become self-sufficient.

On Jan. 1, after 37 years of service, Rod Napier retired from his position as director of programs at The Cabbage Patch, and fellow employee Mayghin Levine, who had been working as the educational opportunities manager for six years, stepped into his role. She brings with her a plethora of new ideas, as well as a commitment to keep The Cabbage Patch growing and succeeding for another 108 years.

Levine is an Oklahoma native who discovered her passion for helping youth in college. She immediately switched her focus from political science to education and eventually found herself teaching in a classroom. But she wanted something more — something more one-on-one with the kids.

Levine lives in the Highlands with her husband and pet rats. | Courtesy of The Cabbage Patch

After moving to Louisville, she worked at Maryhurst as a youth counselor for three years, and then found her way to The Cabbage Patch, a place she finally felt at home with.

“I found it exceptionally rewarding to combine my passion for education with the fun of youth programs, and I loved the chance to see definite growth in a child,” Levine tells Insider. “When I was a teacher in a classroom, I had kids for no more than a year at a time.

“There are some kids (now) with whom I have taught from eighth grade through graduate school,” she continues. “It has been very inspiring to build long-lasting relationships with kids and watch the effect our staff members have had on them.”

Her first priority is to maintain the positive reputation the center has.

“We have thrived for 108 years, in large part because we are dedicated to quality programming that reflects current best practices, and I want to make sure every decision I make reflects that dedication,” she explains. “I want to make sure we are intentional in building life skills into all programs — from perseverance through basketball teams to resiliency during tutoring.”

And as far as new ideas, Levine would like to expand the offerings for teens and implement outdoor education programs like canoeing, biking, camping and more.

“Industry-wide, out-of-school-time centers like ours are losing teens to the need to get a job and help support themselves and their families. We hope to help combat this through more leadership and job training programs targeted to our most financially at-risk teens,” she says.

Levine believes The Cabbage Patch offers stability to the Louisville community and continues to grow and adapt right along with the times. And for the youth who rely on its services, it’s a crucial organization.

“For many of our kids, we are the most stable presence in their lives,” she says. “As our community grows and changes, as our families develop, they need to know that The Cabbage Patch will still be here for them for the next 108 years and beyond.”

She’d like to see more recreational opportunities for the youth. | Courtesy of The Cabbage Patch

Levine lives in the Highlands with her husband and pet rats. She says that despite their reputation — the rats, not the husband — they are intelligent, loving creatures that can do tricks, are very tidy and have big personalities.

“They have this terrible reputation entirely based on misconceptions but are really wonderful companions,” she says, adding that the only downside is their short lifespans of about three years. “I think that is also a bit of a lesson for life — you never know how long you have someone in your life, so it is best to love big and love hard to make the most of your time together.”

We caught up with Levine to ask her some very important questions not about rats …

What was your first concert?

Big hair, don’t care. | Courtesy of Bachman-Turner Overdrive

My first concert was Bachman-Turner Overdrive. I was 10 years old or so, and my dad took me. I thought I was the coolest kid ever, going to a “grown-up” concert with him! In fact, almost all of my concerts have been with my father.

He has definitely influenced my taste in music, which is mostly made up of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s rock bands. I’ve seen Def Leppard, Journey, Styx, Boston … a lot of the greats with my dad!

What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?

There’s plenty of professional topics I could cover, like learning exceptionalities, soft skills, college readiness or program design. Also, I’m a huge nerd, so I could definitely rant about some of my geeky hobbies like how to create a storyteller’s campaign for an RPG group, etiquette in Georgian England (thanks, Jane Austen!), designing live-action role-playing experiences, or raising and training pet rats.

One of the things we teach the children at The Cabbage Patch to do is to be able to speak with authority on subjects that interest them.

What job would you be terrible at?

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be an astronaut, but now I’m pretty sure I’d be terrible at it. Math is not my best subject (you can ask the teens at The Patch who’ve tried to ask me for algebra help), and it turns out I don’t do well in confined spaces.

Plus, I’m pleasantly chubby and a huge extrovert, so I don’t think I could survive very long without warm chocolate chip cookies and lots of human interaction. I guess it was a good thing I didn’t go to work for NASA.

What is your favorite restaurant or bar?

Stout’s chicken burger | Courtesy of Stout

I love food in general, so this is a difficult question, but I would have to say either Migo or Stout here in town. Migo’s duck tacos are insanely good, and Stout makes the juiciest chicken burgers I’ve ever tasted.

My husband and I live in the Highlands, and both are within walking distance, so if we’re going out to dinner, it’s often a toss-up between those two.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once?

Live alone. I know it can sound scary for a lot of folks, especially women, but it is amazing. It is such a freeing experience to know that you can go anywhere and do anything you want — you aren’t beholden to anyone, you are just responsible for yourself.

It’s also really empowering to find that you can completely take care of yourself, from cleaning and cooking to finances, without anyone else’s help. Now that I have a wonderful husband and have the pleasure of sharing a life with someone special, I think I appreciate partnership more for having lived without it.

I think it is important to learn how to live with yourself before you live with someone else. It’s something we prepare our college scholars for at The Patch — conducting financial literacy training and other lessons about how to be responsible for one’s self.

Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?

A couple of times a year CycLOUvia takes over Bardstown Road. | Courtesy of CycLOUvia

Bardstown Road is just such a great example of Louisville at its best. It has everything from interesting night spots and one-of-a-kind boutiques to craft breweries, coffee shops and a huge variety of food. Maybe I’m biased for living so close, but I really feel like it’s a wonderful example of the best things about Louisville.

What keeps you here?

Honestly, Louisville is like no other city I’ve ever been in. It feels like this unique blend of a big city and a small town — it is amazing to me that despite being a city of its size, I cannot seem to go anywhere without bumping into someone I know.

I grew up in a small, rural town, so I find the diversity of Louisville very appealing. There is art, music, food, culture and such a beautiful diversity of people! Then, of course, there is my job. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere other than The Cabbage Patch, and I look forward to making its mission my life’s work.