Monday we started our first day of training for the After-School Academy. I am so excited about this year! The possibilities in the room were energizing!
I must admit, after losing Rachel Embry, our Children's Education Coordinator of two years, I was sad and frustrated. I knew we couldn't find another person with her level of skills for the amount of money we were willing to pay. Not only had she taken a pay cut to work at Central Dallas, she had gone above and beyond to build relationships with families in the community. She spent more than her 40 hours/week doing things with and for the After-School Academy. I wasn't sure how we were going to find someone else of her calibur.
After thinking about it for a while, I had an a-ha moment. In the past, I've utilized the teenagers from the community to run the programs. Despite what some people said, I believed they could do it. I trained them in educational strategies and held them to a high standard. I expected more of them than many people expect of adults on the job, but the teenagers rose to the expectations and they did an amazing job.
Because the older kids get out of school later than the elementary kids, we cannot hire teenagers to run the After-School Academy. However, we do have parents...many who aren't working at this moment...many who are not formally educated (yet)...many who are struggling to find ways to make ends meet while also making sure they are there for their kids. I had held high expectations for the teenagers and they achieved. I could do the same with the adults!
Wyshina Harris, our new Children's Education Coordinator, was promoted from the Assistant to the Coordinator a couple of months ago. She has done an amazing job! While she was still in the Assistant position, Wyshina began to realize that working with kids and Education was her calling. She has now decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in Education.
Sylvia Harris is new to our staff and new to the program. She has only been in Turner Courts a few months. She came to the office to enroll her kids in the After-School Academy a few weeks ago. I suggested she apply for the Assistant position. After going through the interview process and deciding that she was the right fit for the job, Debbie Moss, our Human Resources Manager, called to extend her an offer. Debbie said she screamed for a minute straight! She was still excited yesterday when we started training.
The excitement and energy around the table was contagious! I know great things are going to happen this year!
As we went around the table telling a little bit about ourselves, Wyshina and Chanel Williams, our van driver, talked about planning to get enrolled at El Centro (Dallas Community College) in the Spring. Both are thinking about becoming educators. Chanel talked about how being a part of the After-School Academy has connected her to other adults in the community. (I mentioned in my last post how people in Turner Courts isolate themselves mentally and physically. Chanel admits to doing the same.) She credits the After-School Academy with leading her to connect with people she said she wouldn't have otherwise. Tajiman Fields, our cook, claimed that she felt like Mama Fields because of the way kids come to her and treat her like she is their parent.
We have a great team. We are building community in Turner Courts. It may have taken a few years to get started, but I can look back and see that growth was taking place all along. I am so excited to see what is yet to come this year!