“Growing up, I never thought I’d be in education. If you had told me that one day I’d help lead a program that creates over 55,000 contacts with students every year, I wouldn’t have believed it.
I started my career in design and worked on tradeshows. But then I had a family and I decided to stay home for awhile. I thought I would do real estate, but that turned out to be really intense. I ended up going back to school to study counseling in 2013, but had a very hard time finding a job. I knew I had a passion for
working with students, so I tried to find other ways in, like working as a substitute teacher.
When I finally connected with people from West40, I was overjoyed. I had such a lucky chain of events. My first role was as an advocate at Morton Freshman Center. Then I was asked to start the ALOP program at East Leyden. I interviewed and I just fell in love with Leyden. Now I oversee all of our ALOP work in
the Leyden schools.
My favorite thing about the ALOP program is our
ability to be flexible. Teachers and administrators do so much for their students, but by becoming our kids’ ‘homeroom’ we can offer an additional level of service and care. When we combine our knowledge of social and emotional learning with the talents and resources that a school already has in place, we can create a real safety net for kids. We can help them with issues that they’d never bring up to their parents or even their teachers.
I think it’s clear to all the people that we work with how much our students mean to us. I’ve had students come up to me before, and I know this has happened to other advocates too, where they ask me, ‘Why do you care so much?’ I think each of us feel like we have a responsibility to help as many people as we can.
One thing many people probably don’t realize is that as advocates, we often hold after school events too. For example, we will hold a family night where we invite parents and siblings to come share Thanksgiving dinner together. These events always seem to come at the perfect time for our families. I remember that a mother
once came up to me after a meal and said, ‘I ran out of food stamps last night and this dinner was a godsend.’
After a lot of moments like that, we realized that our work could be even more powerful if we had a way to track just how many people we are affecting. So we developed a data entry program that asks our ALOP advocates to log how many students they’ve interacted with every day. Today, our ALOP program serves over 1,300 students per year. In 2019, we had 8,409 contacts with school staff and 55,158 contacts with students. And we helped students pass 8,877 classes.
One day I would love to see this program in every school. Adolescence is such a challenging time for every student, regardless of what neighborhood they live in or what income bracket they were born into. Every kid deserves this kind of support.