In March of 2003, after being a stay at home mom for almost a year, I decided it was time to rejoin the workforce.
I applied for and accepted a part time line staff position with a local after school program. I was assigned to work at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point. Riverview Middle had a tough reputation with students who resisted structure and authority. This program competed with the neighborhood gangs and drugs found at every corner. So having consistent student attendance was already a victory.
After the first few weeks, I questioned my decision of taking the position. Destructive student behavior and my car being vandalized was not exactly a highlight of my job. I learned that the majority of my students had already endured a tough life. Some were homeless, abused, neglected and even abandoned.
Others were new to the country and struggled with settling into a foreign land and then with the deportation of their parents or other relatives. I devoted my time to my students as much as possible and made it my mission to be there for them and show that they can count on me as a constant source of support.
A year and a half later, I was promoted to a Site Coordinator at Riverview Middle School.
By then we also had a new name. We were now the Mt. Diablo CARES After School Program serving students at 15 different school sites within the district. As a site coordinator, I worked with over 3000 students in over 10 years. It brings me joy to hear my kids (now adults) tell me that I am the reason they are teaching, in college or inviting me to their graduations.
Knowing that they remember my name and specific details after so many years, countless mentors and teachers throughout their life, is an amazing reward. These students are the reason I continue to work in the after school world. They are the reason I continue to seek fresh ways to engage them.
So when the opportunity to attend the BOOST Conference came to me this past year, I was very excited.
I had heard great things about it through colleagues who had attended in previous years. I truly did not expect to have the experience that I did.
I arrived to the conference and was checked in by the happiest people on earth outside of Disneyland. I entered the Expo Hall and it was sensory overload. There was fun music, hands on activities and vendors galore. I had entered my happy place. I felt like a kid in a toy store who can’t make up its mind on what to play with first. So I took my time and visited every booth and played with everything I was allowed to during the next couple of days.
I listened to keynote speakers like Dr. Tererai Trent who shared her incredible story inspiring women everywhere to have a dream and work towards attaining it no matter the challenge to get to it. I attended workshops that motivated me to adjust my approach to the work I do. After sessions, I was able to network with folks from around the country and learn about the great things happening all around me.
On my final day at BOOST, I walked out of the conference center feeling grateful for the experience. I sat in my quiet hotel room and reflected on all the great moments of the week and things I couldn’t wait to share with my colleagues. I wanted to find the appropriate verbiage and attempt to explain how amazing the conference was. Everything from the interactive and informative sessions to the fun activities planned after the workshops. Every detail of that weeks’ conference was well thought out and executed.
I appreciated the wide variety of workshops that our entire program would benefit from.
From nutrition education and STEM workshops to working with students with special needs and staffing issues were wonderful. All of the presenters I encountered were engaging and knowledgeable. They provided real ideas and tools to take back to our sites.
I am looking forward to next year’s BOOST conference and I hope to be accompanied by a core group from our team. I have attended conferences over the years, but none can compare to the energy, passion and intention that BOOST provided.
After working for the CARES program for over 13 years, BOOST has contributed to reigniting the fire to dream bigger and seek to provide the best program possible for our students and the families we serve. After all, our students deserve to have the very best every day.
Don’t miss out on the BOOST experience! Register for the BOOST Conference today!
For breakfast, I had a hard boiled egg (with cayenne pepper sauce – I love spicy food any time of day), fresh strawberries, ½ banana and cup of black coffee.
Rosa Palomino is the Nutrition Coordinator, Mt Diablo CARES After School Program in Concord CA.