Developing The Future Through Love

CIS Youth Development Worker, Justina Franklin, running a “hands on” craft project at Lincoln.
CIS Youth Development Worker, Justina Franklin, running a “hands on” craft project at Lincoln.

Today’s post comes from Bonnie Terrentine. Bonnie is the CIS Site Coordinator at Lincoln International Studies School. Her post sheds light on the vital role Youth Development Workers have in helping our children grow. These individuals are, like their title implies, working hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. Step into any after school program (these 21st Century Community Learning Centers, funded by the Michigan Department of Education, are running throughout ten Kalamazoo Public School buildings) and you will find them assisting students with academic and enrichment activities.

When I ask Justina Franklin why she does this work, she says simply, “I adore and love working with children. There is no better mission—nothing better than I can think of—for me to be doing.” We are fortunate to have someone as seasoned as Justina Franklin serving as a Youth Development Worker here at Lincoln. (She has been a director of after school programming and has also been a former enrichment partner with us through Dr. Carol Hogan’s Campus Kids program.)

Loving, giving, always concerned about what she can do better for kids, Justina Franklin is a mentor for kids and grown ups alike. That is because she gives from her heart. Parents adore her. Communication is important when it comes to our work at CIS and she helps in my role as Site Coordinator, by calling parents, writing letters to communicate how their child is doing. Parents love her for this. The kids love her, too because they know she loves them. As one child put it, “She tough, but she loves us.”

Various projects generated by Justina Franklin.
Various projects generated by Justina Franklin.

She tutors students throughout the day, comes up with incentive plans to help children take an active role in their learning. She never gives up on any kid, and always reminds them about the Kalamazoo Promise®. “It doesn’t come to you by just thinking about it,” I’ve overheard her say. “You have to work hard and learn to read and write and do your math. And then you will get the Kalamazoo Promise®.”

She serves as a leader with other after school staff, helping the team organize and prepare programming for the children. She has taken money out of her own pocket to decorate rooms and make them inviting for the children. She has helped develop a number of after school programs that really engage the kids. She runs a successful scrap book club for 15 children. She has created a cooking class to reinforce the math they are learning from their teachers during the school day. Within the cooking class, students measure, create, and apply their math skills in fun ways. She incorporates discussions about nutrition, portion size, table manners and etiquette. She is imparting to our children the building blocks that make them not just a successful student, but a future successful employee and productive member of our community.

A creative person with a lovely temperament, Justina Franklin is someone who serves as a role model—and not just for children. She challenges each of us to be all that we can be, for she is always thinking the best of people and encouraging them to do their best. She actively looks for every opportunity to help a child, seeing this not as “work” but as a privilege. This is what the business of a Youth Development worker is all about. This is what we should all be about: caring and developing the best in all of our youths. Just like Justina Franklin.