Jen has been a paraprofessional for 15 years in the New York City Department of Education. She has attended or worked at summer camps since the age of 13 and has 15 years experience working with children and teens with special needs in the camp environment. Her true love of camp life translates into her support of her staff and her dedication to her campers, making sure they have an amazing camp experience.
Q: How did you decide on a career working with adults and children with special needs?
A: My mother got me my first job as a paraprofessional in the NYC Department of Education. I didn’t know what it was all about but my mom knew I would be perfect for the job. She was right. I then obtained a second job working at Samuel Field Y in their after school program. I found that many of my students attended programs there. I loved getting to see them having fun and interacting with peers in a different environment other than school. This is where I recognized my love for Social Skills Programming.
Q: What motivates you?
A: The little moments of success that occur every day with our population. There is nothing better than knowing that I helped something who has been struggling with accomplishing a task and getting to see them reach their goal. I have been blessed to watch so many of these moments. From a student who is blind learning to walk with a vision cane independently for the first time to a teenager saying their first word at the age of 14. These little things are what keep me going and prove to me that the sky is the limit with our guys.
Q: What frustrates you?
A: When someone is having a hard time and I am unable to help them. Whether it is a staff member or a participant.
Q: Is there a memory you have or a moment in time where you realized that "this is what I was meant to do?"
A: YES! My very first day as a paraprofessional. I was assigned a student in a wheelchair and I remember thinking to myself “Oh, how do I work this thing”. I was scared that I was going to hurt her or break her chair. She seemed so fragile. We went through our day successfully. I asked a lot of questions and the staff helped me through it all. I didn’t hear her speak once all day. The end of the day came and I was thankful I hadn’t broken a thing. The teacher announced it was time to pack up and the student grabbed my arm tightly and said “You’re my Jennifer.” I lost my composure and cried. Just when I thought she had no idea I even existed, she says something so powerful. That’s when I knew.
Q: What is your favorite activity or program run by the Adler Center?
A: My favorite activity at the Adler Center would have to be all the exciting and fun filled trips the Teen Pals go on. I think being out in the community with our participants and teaching them about their environment, community, and local culture is one of the most important things we can do. Giving the group ownership of where they go and allowing them to make their plans each semester is also a huge piece to this. I love the possibility that if we practice this enough maybe one day they will call a friend and make plans on their own.