Most people in the expanded learning field would be able to answer the question, “Do you know your why?” without much trouble.
But I’ll be really honest with you. I didn’t find my “why” until I had worked in this field for a while. I got my first job in an after-school program by answering a classified ad in January of 1992. Why did I apply? Mostly because I had just obtained my college degree and I was ready to try something that didn’t involve serving food. Also because I thought it might be fun.
When I first started, I made all of the classic rookie mistakes. The kids could literally smell my lack of confidence. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to work with a very talented youth development specialist named Ray Trinidad, and by watching him I learned how transformative these programs could be.
I also learned that youth supervision was not my strong suit, so I was put in charge of completing and submitting the paperwork that was required for grant compliance. And it turned out I was really good at that. So I became an after-school administrator. But rest assured, the fact that I didn’t possess a natural talent for youth development did not make me any less passionate about the work we do.
And by “we” I mean “you.” My talents lie in the development of attendance calculation spreadsheets and legislative code, but I have seen first-hand how those skills can make a positive impact on direct service.
My “why” became a bit more focused recently when, after 22 years as an after-school professional, I finally became a consumer of the services we offer. My wife Jan has resumed her career as a clinical therapist, and my 6-year-old son Oliver goes to an after-school program every day. We are fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood that offers a good one, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The experience of parenting, latent as it may be in my case, has strengthened my belief that every kid deserves the opportunity to spend their after-school hours with caring adults.
It is self-evident that a safe and supervised child is better off than one who is not, and we, as a society, have a collective responsibility to ensure that every child is afforded this basic right. Contributing to the realization of this vision is why I do the work I do.
This morning Ollie and I shared a breakfast of kiwis and strawberries (organic, of course), and whole wheat toast. I hogged all the coffee for myself.
Author Profile: @steveamick