By Rosalina G. Herrera, community service program assistant
It's the morning of April 18, 2013. Jessica Barajas, juvenile diversion coordinator at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego, and her colleague Melissa Andrade sit patiently, waiting for the San Diego County Office of Education's Girls Support Services Unit "Girls' Groups 101: Designing the Right Fit for Your Students" training to begin. They are organized, hydrated, and ready to learn. As the day progresses, and their notebooks fill with "ah-ha" moments and "I never knew that" comments, Jessica and Melissa begin to feel this strange sensation rise up in them. A feeling of anxiety, but the good kind, the kind of anxiety that makes them want to move and do and change lives.
After a long day full of learning, and sharing, of group discussion, taking risks, and self-discovery, Jessica and Melissa are ready to go home. Not only because their brains are tired or because their hands have cramped, but because their anxiety has now transformed into passion. They were ready before, but now, they are armed and ready.
We sat down with Jessica and Melissa about the work they have been doing at the Boys & Girls Clubs in both Encanto and Logan Heights. Recently, the ladies have added a new team member, Pamella Torres, who has been co-facilitating groups, and is looking forward to attending her very first SDCOE training in October.
How have SDCOE trainings helped you?
Jessica: The Boys & Girls Clubs' program SMART Girls, along with the training received at the SDCOE, have enabled me to facilitate groups without feeling overwhelmed. I have more passion to serve our kids because I see the light and passion that you ladies have within you and it makes my passion and desire to serve our youth grow!
Melissa: I love that the trainings aid in facilitation by providing us with activities that help the girls open up their hearts and minds to their peers.
What keeps you coming back to the SDCOE trainings?
Jessica: The opportunity to share and learn from others, the facilitators' passion. In attending these trainings, I've learned to respect myself more, to trust in the abilities that I have and what I can accomplish. I've been able to expand my goals and continue educating myself so that I am able to lead by example.
What have your students taught you?
Pamella: To be a stronger person. I have learned that everyone, no matter their age, has a story to tell. I thought I had lived a hard life, but then I hear the story of one of our 14 year-old students, and I realize that they have been through so much more. I have to work harder to be that one person that doesn't give up on them, like so many other people who have been in and out of their lives.
What do you like most about your job?
Jessica: I like all of it! I really love the opportunity to be able to change lives. I can cater to the kids who are overlooked, who need additional reminders of a positive future, emphasizing self-worth.
Pamella: Changing lives and having an impact, because not everyone has a mom and a dad, they might not have anyone. Having them open up to me is really amazing. Knowing that they can confide in me and tell me things they can't share with anyone else in their lives...it makes me feel honored.
Melissa: The kids! Knowing that I am able to help them and let them know that there is hope and help out there for them, that there is someone who cares about them. Sometimes we are the last hope for them. That is what keeps me motivated every day.