(Photo left to right: Ms. Maria, Mr. Kalin, Ms. Fran and Ms. Diana)
Ms. Fran has lived here in Chirilagua since she was 9 months old. Growing up she wanted to be part of Kids Club, but due to the size and popularity of the program was never able to gain her spot due to the long waitlist. Instead, she and her family developed ongoing relationships with their neighbors who had been volunteering with Casa since its early days. It was these connections that later led her back to Casa as a Kids Club Assistant with the Local Leader program.
She is currently studying Political Science at NOVA and plans to transfer to either Mason or Mary Washington. Her passion is for local politics where she feels the most impact can be made. Casa Chirilagua is one of the non-profits she has worked with in her effort to learn more about what community organizations are doing. However, after starting in August she quickly learned things are different here. She said, “In other jobs you just do the job and that’s it, but here there’s a purpose in doing this. The kids are so uplifting, they bring positivity to my day. It’s different than other jobs.”
She wasn’t sure how it would be working with kids at first, but she’s found that, “The kids, they look up to you. I’ve grown up here and I know what they’re going through.” Her laid back and fun presence is showing the kids another role model leader from their neighborhood. Ms. Fran also appreciates the love and support she feels from other Local Leaders saying they’ve become, “Important people in my life. They make me feel comfortable to be myself.”
Ms. Diana has enjoyed helping the new Local Leaders, having been one herself since early this year. “I help them prepare lessons and give them tips on talking to the kids when they’re having a tough day,” she says, “But Ms. Maria is the real pro here when it comes to classroom management. I’m still learning from her.” Ms. Maria, who’s the longest tenured Local Leader at Casa calmly brushes off the compliment adding, “I’m happy at how helpful the new Local Leaders have been.”
Meanwhile Mr. Kalin’s fun-loving attitude brings joy to the room. He states the importance of his work here as part of a spiritual calling. “This is definitely a God gig,” he says. Mr. Kalin is learning new ways to be a positive voice for youth through his work as Teens Club Assistant Director and Bible study leader, “My goal is to use my voice to bring healing to people. To bring Christ to broken places through music, preaching and partnerships with the city.”
After only a month and a half on the job he says, “It feels like a year! I can’t believe it! I am strengthening my admin and planning skills thanks to Ms. Marissa (Casa’s Youth Programs Director). I’m also learning how to be assertive but loving at the same time which is something I’ve been praying for.”
Each of them are building special relationships as they lead youth in the community. Not only with each other but also with the kids. As they laugh and reminisce about fun things the kids have told them a staff member from Teens Club pops his head in and says, “It’s time for Ms. Marissa’s birthday piñata!” Further proof that while they are growing professionally, this is also like no other place they have worked before.