I’ve mentioned a couple times now that I plan to volunteer with Girls on the Run St. Louis this spring, but I thought I’d give you all a little insight into how I got here. GOTR is a national organization so it’s not like they’re hard to find, but I have my own personal journey that has lead me to volunteer with such a great organization, and I thought maybe you’d want to hear about it.
I never expected to work with children. I never even really wanted to. I’d always planned on being a writer and after discovering journalism in high school, I knew it was a good fit.
Come college graduation in 2004, and I was ready to jump into the world of reporting. I had the opportunity to spend the summer after graduation living in New Mexico, and while I had looked for short-term freelancing jobs, a different position was offered and I took it. I ended up working as a YMCA Assistant Camp Site Director.
This was the first time I had ever worked with children in any capacity. I didn’t even babysit when I was young! And you know what?
I was hooked.
Spending the Summer of 2004 working so closely with children as a counselor, coach, mentor, and leader was life-changing for me at the time. I didn’t know it then, but I was starting down a path that would lead me to social work.
I’m so thankful for that job.
My next experience with children was in Central Virginia, where I worked as a Community Educator for a small non-profit. I went into local school districts and talked to kids about violence prevention.
I also had the opportunity to write a grant, which was indeed funded, for a self-esteem camp for girls. I called this camp PowerGirls and with the help of the amazing Crisis Line of Central Virginia and Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council, we pulled it off in the summer of 2006!
We had over 80 girls attend that first year. Daily workshops were provided by local community organizations and all kinds of help was provided by volunteers. It was an amazing experience and to think it had grown from a tiny thought in my own brain to this week-long event really brought the experience home.
The best news? The camp still runs today!
Since then, I’ve held a myriad of social work positions, working with children of all ages and in all capacities.
+Prevention Specialist – much the same job as Community Educator, except I spoke to children about substance abuse prevention. I was able to run two amazing groups with kids, a Peer Influence group and an Anger Management group. Both taught me invaluable lessons about group therapy.
+Special Education Paraprofessional – basically a classroom assistant position while I was in grad school, I was able to work in one of the best classrooms I’ve ever set foot in, with a group of kids with Autism. That classroom changed the way I looked at Autism and taught me the basics regarding Autism education.
These drawings are by a 6-year-old boy with Autism. He wrote his own version of the alphabet, and the objects that to him, represented each letter. My favorite? G is for
cookie good. Cookies are good, he’s right!
+School Social Work Intern, Early Childhood Center – The youngest kids I’ve ever worked with, and the most precious. I learned lots of behavior management techniques and how to work with a multitude of special needs.
+School Social Work Intern, High School – Oh high school, how different yet so similar you are to the little ones. Lots of whining and crying, just about more grownup issues than the little ones. I had my own caseload of students and was actually able to put my lessons in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to work.
+ABA Therapy Tech – During my last year of grad school, I did behavior therapy with children with Autism, age 2- to 8-years-old. This really cemented my work with children with Autism. The best thing about our center was the multi-therapeutic techniques we used: play therapy, art therapy, speech therapy, social skill therapy…you name it, we did it!
Currently, I work with young adults with developmental disabilities in the employment field, and while my job is wonderful…
…I miss the kids.
So that leads me to Girls on the Run. I knew that if I couldn’t work with children directly (though I plan to again, especially when I start clinical therapy), I had to figure out a way to spend some time with them.
I had learned about GOTR years ago, but never had the ability to commit with them. Now, I do, and I am.
From my beginnings in Albuquerque and all my experiences since, I know that my passion lies with children. I love inspiring those children in need (aren’t all children in need?), working with kids with disabilities of all kinds, and trying to be the best role model in a world where “role models” go to jail, do drugs, get pregnant, and use fame for terrible reasons.
GOTR is an amazing organization and I’m lucky enough to live here in St. Louis, home of the third largest council in the nation! There were 170 new coaches at the training and we learned all about being a coach, and even participated in a few lessons. Here’s a photo from @gotrstl:
I can’t wait to join the ranks of GOTR coaches and get back to my roots, the roots that started growing when I was already 22-years-old.
Or maybe they were there all along.