It almost seems as though fate brought Margaret “Meg” Cooney to McHenry County.
The Evanston native recently bought a house in an unincorporated area of the county near Crystal Lake, not knowing that a short time later Woodstock would become her place of business.
After earning degrees in law enforcement justice administration and Spanish from Western Illinois University in Macomb, the 24-year-old added a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University of Chicago.
Her education also includes studying abroad at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain and Cuauhnahuac Spanish Language Institute in Mexico, where she learned to speak and write Spanish proficiently.
She landed a job at Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network of Lake County – a social service organization that works with children, youth and families who are abused or neglected – after receiving her master’s degree.
A decision to change her career path shortened her stay as a bilingual social worker at UCAN of Lake County to around eight months after she found a job at the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office that blended her law enforcement and social work training.
Cooney spoke with reporter Lawerence Synett about her new position, speaking Spanish and loving McHenry County.
Synett: What got you interested in law enforcement?
Cooney: I decided in eighth grade that I wanted to become a police officer after I walked in on an armed robbery. I just fell in love with the process. So I went into law enforcement, completed my degree, and interned with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office. Later I learned how much I liked working with people, so I decided to go back to school for social work.
Synett: Why Spanish?
Cooney: Why not Spanish? I starting picking up the language in fifth grade and just fell in love with it. It gave me a great opportunity to study abroad and after that, I just stuck with it.
Synett: How would you sum up your time at UCAN of Lake County?
Cooney: I really enjoyed working with the families and learning how to assess different situations. I enjoyed the people, too. It was great. I also got to be in the courtrooms and work with the attorneys, and everything in-between. It was a really good experience.
Synett: What made you want to leave your Lake County job?
Cooney: I decided I wanted a career change. My goal was to find a career blending law enforcement and social work. I saw this position in McHenry County, and it was one of those moments where the light goes on, and the bells go off. It was just what I was looking for.
Synett: What does your new job entail, and did you move to McHenry County just for the job?
Cooney: I help crime victims navigate the legal process and serve as the liaison between them and the assistant state’s attorney assigned to the case. There’s always something different going on. I bought my house before I got this position and just fell in love with the county. I don’t really know how it worked out this way, but I got out here and just loved it.
The Cooney lowdown
Who she is: victim and witness coordinator at the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office
Where she’s from: Evanston
Nickname: Meg because all the women in her family are named Margaret, so each one gets a nickname.
Favorite movie: “A League of Their Own”
Favorite food: Italian beef sandwiches
Favorite thing about McHenry County: The people