Place of birth: Urbana, Ill.
Date of Birth: March 12, 1980
Lived in Columbus since: 2002
Title: i-CARE before- and after-school program director
Family: I live on our family farm with my husband, Matt, our four daughters and several animals. We have a set of 13-year-old twins, a 6-year-old and a 20-month-old.
Community involvement: I am a member of the Out-of-School Coalition of Bartholomew County and the Literacy Task Force. I am also very active in the children’s ministries with my church.
Hobbies: I participate in the handbell choir at my church. I have played in a bell choir since I was in the fifth grade.
● What would you like the community to know about the Bartholomew Consolidate School Corp. i-CARE program?
It has been an amazing first year! We started off the school year with 200 children enrolled, and now we have approximately 1,200. The i-CARE Program provides programming before and after school for the 180 days of the school year at each of the 11 elementary schools, the Johnson Early Education Center and after-school only at the two middle schools. The program is also open over school breaks (including summer) and is only closed on major holidays. The children that attend the program receive a healthy snack, physical activity, homework assistance and learning enrichment activities that include hands-on, out-of-your-seat learning. Each site also conducts a family night each month to bring the entire family together for fun learning activities.
● What was your first job?
My first job out of college was in a day treatment program with Quinco (now Centerstone). Children whose behaviors stood in the way of their success at school came to our program during the day. We had a teacher on-site and the other staff created life skills activities. I was in charge of teaching anger management skills to the students.
What primary lessons did you learn from that job?
Since it was my first “grown-up” job, it taught me to be dependable and responsible. The best thing that came from it was learning to work with a team. We were a group of five or six who worked very closely with each other and with challenging students. We had to learn how to communicate, problem-solve and support each other.
How did your leadership capabilities develop?
Throughout my employment with the BCSC school system, my position has included new responsibilities each year with the development of new programs. This gradual progression has allowed me to develop my leadership skills from going to supervising five employees to now approximately 100.
What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned?
A quote that I keep on my desk is, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” by William James. I know that this is true about myself, so I try to make sure to acknowledge the work that everyone is putting into this program.
Another lesson is how to communicate effectively. Often, as program director, I spend so much time thinking about things that I forget others are not inside my head. I have learned to back up and give the information from the beginning.
What leadership lessons do you wish you had known early in your leadership career?
To have the difficult conversations and make the difficult decisions as early as possible. While they are hard to start, I have found that the people with which you need to have those difficult conversations are generally aware of the issue as well. The longer you put it off and ignore the problem, the worse it gets and is harder to deal with down the road. If you are able to start the conversations early, then everyone can work together to make the necessary changes.
What advice would you give to young people who are trying to find a way to get more involved in the community?
My advice is mainly to start talking to the people involved in community programs. Most, if not all, programs are always looking for volunteers. Often the volunteer can then be hired if a position opens. We have had this happen several times, even with high school students. Also, once you get involved with one program, you start to learn about other programs throughout the community.
What are some of your favorite places to visit and why?
My favorite city that I have visited so far is London. However, now that I have family, I have found that my favorite place is anywhere my kids are. It is amazing how much fun you can have just watching your kids have fun.
Compiled by Michelle Sokol firstname.lastname@example.org