December 17, 2017

Finding purpose at the Y [Cayman Islands]

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These days, many people are looking for a career path that provides more fulfilment than just a regular pay check. They want to do something that makes a difference, that impacts their community, maybe even the world. More than ever, young and old alike are seeking purpose and passion in their endeavours.

This was indeed the case for 23-year old Katherine Jackson, Youth Development Coordinator at the Cayman Islands. What started out as a summer job while home from university in 2015 has evolved into a full time, fun and rewarding career which gives meaning to this young Caymanian every day.

Katherine’s journey at the Y began with an ad in the newspaper seeking a Youth Activity Leader for the upcoming Y Summer Day Camp. Her aunt brought the job to her attention and told her niece it was a perfect fit. Katherine agreed. As a former teacher’s aide in the reception class at Edna M. , she knew that she enjoyed working with, and helping kids. The position seemed like a fun way to do just that.

“During my time at Edna M. Moyle Primary, I gained a lot of experience working with children, including understanding the different approaches to teaching because each child learns differently,” she explained. “That knowledge came in handy at camp as I interacted with children of many personalities and temperaments.”

At the Y camp, Katherine worked with a group of 10 to 12 Discovery campers ages five to seven. Her daily responsibilities included leading them through a variety of activities that included sports and field games and arts and crafts, while teaching them the Y values of honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith. In addition, she was introduced to the administrative side of camp by helping with registration and payment tracking.

The Y is also where Katherine got her nickname, . Every Y camp leader has a camp name and each camp name has a story behind it. Her name stems from her love of all things chocolate. The moniker has proven to be not only a fun way for campers and parents to remember her but also a great conversation starter and ice breaker. Katherine says she’s had many campers share with her what their favourite chocolate bar is, which has allowed her to get to know them better.

Fast forward two years, and Katherine is now a proud graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in Psychology, and an equally proud member of the Y team. She currently works in the after-school department but also remains quite involved with camp throughout the year. In her role, she helps with developing curriculum which is used in the Y Extended After School Programmes (EASP) at the Y’s seven primary school sites, and creates lesson plans for the five core areas of curriculum – STEM, Literacy, Creative Arts, Kid Fit and It’s My Y Club. The lesson plans are meant to supplement learning taking place in the classroom while also sparking an interest in new subject areas by engaging the students in fun, hands-on activities.

Katherine is also for the Extended After-School Programme at the organisation’s Red Bay Primary School site which serves 71 students, and for the Y Summer Day Camp at the CI Baptist Church Youth Centre site, another rewarding post.

“One of my favourite things about being a Site Coordinator is the opportunity to build relationships with families and the community,” she said. “I enjoy working with the talented, hardworking team at Red Bay, interacting with families, and continuously making an effort to add and make changes to the delivery of our programme to create the best result possible.”

Katherine’s ultimate goal is to be a school counsellor, and acknowledges that the summer job at the Y was a great way to gain more experience with working around children. However, she was surprised at how the Y helped her grow both professionally and personally.

“Once exposed to the Y, I began to grow in areas I never expected, and quite quickly! I feel as though the Y leadership saw my potential and wanted to help me develop my skills further. They have sent me to various training events locally as well as overseas to our sister Y in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I am grateful for that exposure.”

Teaching the YMCA’s core values of honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith is a substantial part of the work the organisation does, and something that is very important to Katherine. She believes she too has grown personally as a result of having to impart the ideals to others.

“I have always admired people who exhibited these values. I grew up having my grandmother as a perfect example of what the demonstration of these values looked like and have strived to be like her,” she said. “Although I’ve always done my best to live out these principles, working at the Y opened my eyes to the various ways in which simple activities can be used to strengthen and show the importance of these values. My involvement has also allowed me to feel comfortable in explaining the necessity of these values in the development of character.”
Katherine says, as a young Caymanian, helping to positively shape children’s character, acting as a role model for them and really making a difference in their world is the opportunity of a lifetime and means everything to her. In fact, one of the highlights of her job at the Y is when she hears the campers or students using the same ‘values language’ they’ve heard her use.

“Hearing them point out ways that someone else was not ‘responsible’ or ‘honest’ or how somebody showed ‘respect’ lets me know that they are retaining the messages I’m sharing and that feels great.”

Kit Kat has made many memories in her relatively short time at the YMCA but one of the most vivid is a simple moment which perhaps is most symbolic of the Y organisation.

“At an end of day assembly one summer, Hercules [a camp site coordinator] got everyone out onto one of the fields to form a circle. Campers, Counsellors In Training (CITs) and leaders alike were all holding hands in this huge circle. I remember looking around and reflecting on the many faces, personalities, stories, and how all of them are. very important members of our Y family. That image is a tough one to forget.”

“I can vividly recall when Kit Kat began working with the YMCA. It was obvious her personal values were a great match for the Y, and she literally demonstrated the patience of a saint,” said Greg Smith, YMCA CEO. “What has been a special joy, however, is seeing how she has developed as a very strong leader in such a short time. Like myself and so many others across the movement, I believe Katherine found her voice at the Y. She has a powerful message to share with our youth, and her actions speak even louder than her words.”

For more information about the YMCA of the Cayman Islands log on to www.ymcacayman.ky, call 926.9622 or email info@ymcacayman.ky.

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