I was managing an inner-city after school program for about 20-25 fifth graders when I decided to take on a larger role as site coordinator. That meant leading more than 100 seventh and eighth graders in one of the toughest middle schools in the district.
I knew it was a great opportunity for me and my future career. I was less than a year through a management program at the University of Redlands and knew that I had a passion for leading others. I am a planner and I have the ability to be thrown into very complex situations and see my way through.
I had to learn how to be a leader quickly, as I managed not only students but staff members, teachers and a full workload. I took the new position seriously and made it my duty to make the program successful.
I started by observing the program for an entire day without giving direction, advice or any feedback whatsoever to the staff or the students. I knew I needed time to assess what I was working with and that making assumptions too quickly would only hinder the success of the program.
From that day on I acquired the information I needed, met with people I knew would be important to the success of the program and tried everything under the sun, including a variety of different schedules, since an after school program is nothing without a great schedule that appeals to the mind of a teenager. We had some really bad days but with each day that went by, we all started to see very quickly what would work and what worked against us.
After leaning in, within three months my program really started to come together. I had built relationships with the faculty, gained the respect of my staff and started making the real connections that were needed to bond with the youth. My life continued to change, and it changed very quickly. I was only in the position for one year and was promoted to a program coordinator position that manages the school's partnership with a community-based organization.