In The News

Staff Spotlight:Stephanie Barnett

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Talking with Stephanie Barnett, Site Director of JICES
Respect and patience are the two biggest factors when working with kids, says Stephanie Barnett, Director at the James Irwin Charter Elementary School (JICES).

This advice goes both ways - for the adults as well as the children. For adults, “You have to have patience to earn respect, especially with the kids,” Stephanie said. And while asking kids to be patient can be difficult at times, it’s necessary to keep expectations in line, especially when engaging in activities that are new to everyone involved.

“Sometimes the teachers [the kids] are working with are learning things at the same rate that they are,” she explained. “It’s very rewarding when things go as planned, but also when things do not go as planned and the kids are not shattered.”

A two-year veteran of the BGCPPR, Stephanie never planned to have a career working with children. Armed with a degree in Linguistics from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a Minor in Russian, she was originally interested in using her high-level language skills to work with the defense community as an interpreter.

“I knew I wanted to help the community of adults who needed more help with language - Russian, Spanish, etc.,” she said.

Stephanie noted that she originally had the idea of working with women transcripted as mail-order brides. With her background in Russian, Stephanie learned about the plight of women who are brought to this country, who do not speak English, and then are left to fend on their own. She explained that these women need assistance as they try to navigate everyday life in America.

Stephanie’s interest in language was planted early - growing up in San Jose, CA, Stephanie tutored her elementary school peers in English. Working with kids who were learning English as a second language was rewarding, she said..

“Some days I would think about it afterwards and it was really rewarding for me. I learned about how the other kids in my community learned.”

Stephanie was introduced to the BGCPPR when she accompanied a family member for in-processing. Upon learning that Stephanie had experience working with children and was looking for job, the Club hiring director interviewed her on the spot.

“My biggest worry was that I wasn’t dressed for an interview,” she said, laughing. “Let alone that I didn't have my resume or anything for them - my first thought was I wasn't dressed for an interview.”

Happily for the BGCPPR, Stephanie took the position. Today, Stephanie is happy where she is, serving the children and families of JICES.

“I think the best part of my job is working with the older kids - the ones in the Kids360 program,” she said. “The ones who feel like they don't belong in the program because they are older than most of the other kids. Not only do I teach them things, but they teach me as well - they teach me how to be a kid again, which as an adult can be a little difficult to remember!”

Stephanie added that she really appreciates how the Club can often be that “reset” that many kids need after a rough day at school.

“In school, you might have a really bad day, but as soon as you get to the Club, its brand new, you have a fresh start,” she said. “Just because you have a bad day at school doesn't mean you have to have a bad day at the Club.”

Going forward, Stephanie would one day like to build a non-profit organization dedicated to helping underprivileged, minority, and high-risk children, much like the BGCPRR, but providing even more extracurricular activities.

She’d like to see it grow as a community center, and would like to offer parents classes in areas where they might be struggling - English classes, cooking classes, etc., along with child care that runs throughout the night to serve those who work night shifts.

All together, Stephanie plans to somehow give back to those who need it most. Thank you, Stephanie, for being part of the BGCPPR!