Saturday, June 8, 2013

a milestone

the photo above is my office, where i spend the most productive hours of my time. fifteen years ago today, i showed up at a residential treatment facility for my first day of work.

i have now worked in residential treatment for fifteen years.

 just-out-of-college-me would never have imagined that, because i told myself that first summer that i'd stop when it wasn't challenging anymore.

i was so naive. it has never not been challenging.

i have now worked with well over 1,200 youth in out-of-home care. they are bright, creative, funny, loving, talented, spirit-filled souls. it's their histories that have clouded their the brightness of their lives. we can't change their histories. we can only help them find light.

since 2006, i've been the education coordinator. this means a lot of things: i work with the local school district to manage the day-to-day tasks of our on-grounds school program. i am the guidance counselor/registrar/dean/summer activity coordinator. i go to meetings upon meetings where i advocate for students' needs, and communicate their progress. i listen, and compromise, and improvise, and try whatever may work to help students be successful. i write surprise notes to my students and sit in on their guitar lessons and read their teenage poetry. i've repaired their broken shoes, taken them on escalators for the first time, and challenged them to rock paper scissors tournaments. i've planned elaborate events that didn't pan out, and i've sat under my desk and cried in frustration. it's hard work. the tension of trauma can be thick. the operation is 24/7. i could write a book.

when i was a teenager, i didn't even know residential treatment existed. i realize that i am lucky, that i never knew that. i have learned so much - that every kid is the most important, that the work is not about me, to praise publicly and prompt privately - and i feel grateful for the opportunities i've had to week is the last day of school. i'm so excited about all of the awards we will pass out at our end of school celebration. i am so excited for the teachers to read the notes i asked students to write for them. and i'm so excited for our busy direct care staff to read the sweet messages from the residents on the huge banner that is hiding in my office right now. there will be tears.i won't keep talking about my day job on my blog, but fifteen years is worth noting.

1 comment:

Valarie Ramirez said...

Julie, this was such a nice peek into your daily life at your job. I have never really asked you about your work. And, this was a great summary. Looks like they are more than lucky to have you in their lives. What a great person you are for tackling such a task. It definitely takes a special person. It brought tears to my eyes. Happy 15th Anniversary.