I’m Tamika. I’ve been with the May eight years. I’ve worked with adults, and then with students with traumatic brain injuries. Now I’m a Program Coordinator in a residence for students with autism. So I’ve definitely seen a lot of different aspects of the May.
I think all of our students have a potential to grow beyond their stay here at the May. Regardless of what disability they may have, as long as there is someone there who is challenging them to learn more, I think they are open to learning more. It’s just being given the opportunity to do so. Growth doesn’t stop, ever.
What’s most rewarding to me? I’d have to say the parents. I mean, we see the kids every day, and I love the kids. It’s when you have a parent who comes in once a week or every other week and says, “This is amazing! You guys do a great job.” That’s when you feel like you’re really making a difference. It means a lot. Especially as I know how hard it is for them to let their child go into residential placement. So for them to feel comfortable and appreciative of what you’re doing, it just makes you feel like you’re doing something right.
I’m most proud of a past student. He was non-verbal, and he had a lot of aggressive behaviors when he first arrived. The behaviors were tough and he was very stubborn. But I don’t know why, he was always fantastic with me. I was there when he started and I was there till the end. I was his case manager and his front communication the whole time. So I was there for every meeting, and I went to every doctor’s appointment.
He made me want to move up and want to do more. I saw how we started addressing the challenging behaviors when he came in and how amazing he was by the time he moved on to adult services. I went to his adult group home to do the training with his staff too. I was a part of everything. That, to me, was the most rewarding part of being here so far.
I believe that the students are one of the biggest reasons why many of us stay as long as we stay. Yes, they have bad days, but all the improvements and changes they’ve been able to make because of us… that keeps you here. It makes everything better. And yes, it’s our job — but it’s because we care about them.
That’s what we’re here for. To keep them safe. To teach them that they can be safe on their own. It’s being a caregiver, a surrogate parent for lack of better words. You need to show this child the same amount of care they get at home so they can grow. Because part of them growing means that they need to know that other people can respect them and love them regardless of what they’re doing.
A lot of it is teamwork. Without teamwork, nothing would work well, it wouldn’t benefit anyone. And I know that especially at the residences we tend to get as close with the other staff as you do with the kids because these are the people you work with. You spend 40 hours a week of your life with the same people. They’re people you learn to respect. It’s the teamwork across all settings. The staff within the house, the parents, the school staff: it’s a team effort. It is beyond critical. It’s the groundwork for everything that we do.