What was your first experience/job in OST?
My first job in OST was as an AmeriCorps member where I worked with elementary students in afterschool reading and math programs. It gave me an opportunity to connect with youth and understand the components of a quality program. During my second year in AmeriCorps, I worked with students in the College and Career Access Center at Heights High School in Houston, Texas. We created the afterschool Grad Club to provide support with college applications, financial aid, resumes, and essays. Through AmeriCorps, I saw firsthand the value of supplemental learning outside of the classroom. I was also fortunate to work with different age groups and develop an understanding of their varying needs. AmeriCorps launched me into my OST career and I’m forever grateful for the experience!
What are you doing now?
I now work at the Colorado Department of Education as an OST Programs and Partnerships Specialist for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC). The grant is one of the largest federal funding sources for out-of-school time programs. I support and work with 21st CCLC grant recipients across the state and provide professional development around OST and quality programs.
What was your journey getting to where you are now?
When I was young, I did not plan to embark on this OST journey, but being able to serve my community and work with youth led me to where I am now. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts degree and hoped to go to law school or into teaching. I like to think that I found the middle ground between two of my passions – education, and policy. After serving in AmeriCorps for two years, I joined the Center for Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (CASE) for Kids office at the Harris County Department of Education in Houston, Texas. I worked there for five years, helping develop diverse afterschool programs that engaged youth in a variety of activities. Through CASE, I received training to become an external assessor and trainer for the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.
What is the value of working in this field? What excites you most?
When I think of out-of-school time, the impact is two-fold. First, it provides value to students by offering different experiences and new learning opportunities. Second, it engages youth in nontraditional ways and helps schools reimagine what school engagement looks like. OST exposes students to passions that they may not have known otherwise to have exposure to, like cooking, robotics, arts, and sports. Out-of-school time also offers support to working families and provides comfort that their students are in a safe and engaging place. I’m most excited when students are excited about learning and engaging with their peers and adults.
When not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to spend time with family, friends, my fiancé, Alex, and my dog, Blue! I like hiking, yoga, and going to concerts. I’m a big Houston sports fan but also enjoy going to Rockies games. I have fallen in love with Colorado summers and enjoy trips to small mountain towns.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself, your experiences in OST, or the OST field?
I always believed in the concept of “it takes a village…”, especially when teaching and supporting a child. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers are called community learning centers because they involve students, families, staff, and community partners to give children the best opportunities possible. When youth succeed, our collective futures are brighter.