Stories That Shape Us
Grab a tissue. You will be inspired after your read this article (Courtesy of NAA (National Afterschool Association) shining the spotlight on one of BACR's Afterschool Program Coordinator, Kimberly Lewis. Kim shares her story on discovering her #why. We couldn't be more proud of the dedication Kimberly has contributed to the community and to the lives of the youth she has impacted. Thank you for carrying out the BACR mission by joining us on your path to service and success!
Kimberly Lewis, ASP Site Coordinator for Bay Area Community Resources in Richmond, California, started off as a volunteer in the out-of-school time field, but quickly learned this was what she was meant to do.
"My first year of being involved in the ASP setting period, a little boy confided in me that he 'wanted to commit suicide,'" Lewis recalled. "Long story short, I was scared, but thankful that he trusted me enough to say something to me (of all people) and I was able to get him the help that he needed."
When the student returned to School, Lewis took him under her wing and I put him in the program's Drama Club.
"I ran into this young man, a few years after this and he whipped out a notebook and showed me a play that he had written and dedicated to me," Lewis said, noting that every few years she runs into him and he always thanks her for not giving up on him. "It's scenarios like this that are my "why.'"
Before being in the out-of-school time field, Lewis was working in hospitality and it wasn't quite working out how she'd hoped. Though Lewis didn't know what she wanted to do otherwise, she knew she needed a new start.
"Until I could figure it all out, I actually started off volunteering," Lewis remembered. "I did yard duty, helped in the Learning Center, helped as a room mom, etc. One day, the principal came to me and asked, 'Would you like to get paid for what you do?' That sparked it all."
From there, Lewis helped out everywhere she was asked to and, eventually, a position in the ASP became available, as a Youth Developer or Group Leader.
"I started doing that along with the other school day duties—I joined all the committees; you name it, I was on it!" Lewis said. One day, when her supervisor took maternity leave, Lewis was asked to take over in her absence. "I did that and affectionately coined myself the 'SubVisor,' which was a blended term for 'Substitute Supervisor.' After standing in for her, I was asked to run my own site and have been ever since."
Lewis has been able to leave her mark on every site she's been assigned to.
"It became a running theme to put me at the sites with the most troubles," Lewis said. "I would go in and turn things around and eventually, get reassigned. But, every program that I've started, I've left behind the 'blueprint,' if you will. I have programs still running the same way I ran them, and I have schools that continuously adopt the kind of programs I start."
Among the programs and initiatives Lewis has created over the years are a Chess Program, Cooking Club, Drama Club, Dance Club, Capoeira Club, a "Punch & Paint" Night for parents and kids, a Dr. Seuss Literacy Night, Bike Mobile Free Repair Day, Tennis Club, and Movie Night. She even started a Culture Committee that helped families attain food, shelter, jobs, bedroom sets, cable, internet and more.
"All of the things I've done to this day are adopted by all the schools I have come in contact with and I continue to share my insight and partnerships," Lewis said. "I'm truly grateful for them all!"
Lewis says NAA has supported her passion and professional efforts in the out-of-school time realm, and is thankful the organization has put together a platform which allows those involved in the afterschool program world to express and share with others what they do.
"I am honored and ecstatic to have an organization like NAA be a vessel to continue the fight, the efforts, and the push for the care, support and resources that our families need," Lewis said. "The National AfterSchool Association highlights the many talented staff that dedicate themselves to this work on a daily basis and sheds light on what we do."
"Without the help of organizations such as NAA, people like me and countless others would not have a shared space to connect, share, network and expand our horizons, knowledge and efforts in what we do. So, I thank you. Thank you for being a beacon, a lighthouse and a vessel to continue our efforts and I hope this organization continues to inspire, elevate, illuminate and cultivate new generations to come."
Lewis aspires daily to make a difference, to be the change she wants to see and to help where, when and how she can.
"I know I am far from the best, but I can guarantee that I will continue to give my best in all that I do for this Industry, for these families and the generations that will come after me," Lewis said. "I hope that what I am doing truly makes a difference, even if it is to only one person."
NAA's "Stories That Shape Us" series shines a spotlight on the authentic stories and varying career paths of the afterschool profession. Told from the perspectives of NAA members themselves, each story is unique and highlights the differences but also the commonalities of the dedicated professionals serving youth around the country in out-of-school time today.