This is my reflection and praise of my first few weeks at Lutheran Settlement House, my experience working in the Out of School Time program, and all the wonderful staff and students I have met!
When I arrived at Lutheran Settlement House, I was given a tour and then taken to my desk, which had a paper that read: “Welcome Samantha!”. Everyone greeted me and shook my hand. From then on, the staff greeted me by name every day and welcomed me into their family. It is a privilege for me to be a part of their community and to see so many strong women together. I cannot stress how good it feels to be in an environment where my coworkers are also close friends, to see how they take care of themselves in order to do their best work, and how passionate they are about staying informed and staying connected to the community they serve.
I would like to take time to acknowledge some key women, who I have come to admire in my first two weeks. Robin and Gabby are my leads and they’ve shown me to be bold in stating exactly what you need in order to do your job. Robin works in the upper offices, but maintains a supportive relationship with the students from the Out of School Time program and demonstrates exactly how you can be a facilitator and creator for community programs, while also maintaining strong bonds with the people you serve.
Gabby is new just like me, but she has settled in smoothly (while it felt a little more bumpy for me). She has shown me how to integrate oneself in a new space, to feel comfortable asking questions, and how to dive into the work, even if you’re going to make mistakes.
Sam, my current direct supervisor, who also shares my name, has been one of the most inspiring people I have ever met these past few weeks. Sam runs the OST program for the students, and has truly given them her all. I admire the friendship she has built with them- how she attends their extracurricular activities (which is outside of her job), their graduations, and has lifted them up through some of the most heavy hardships in their lives. Sam isn’t afraid to call out the bullshit when she sees it; she seizes any moment as an opportunity to teach the kids AND she gives them the reasoning and history, so they can make the decision for themselves and then continue to inform others. I hope that I can do the same one day and have informed and open discussions with people, instead of just ignoring the issue or dismissing it. From bullying to depression, Sam has supported and called out the students through it all. What I admire most about Sam, is that she knows when to stop and take care of herself and others. She knew that after working for OST for some years it was time to move on, for herself emotionally, just as she knew that when I was doing too much, she was going to have my back. Sam is supportive, genuine, very aware, a problem-solver, and strong as hell. Even beyond Sam’s last day, I know I’m going to keep her in mind as one of my role models.
To the students of OST, oh my goodness gracious, I cannot say enough about them! I had thought it would be tough to bond with them in such little time, but after pushing myself to introduce myself and shake every students’ hand, I found myself admiring them and laughing with them, like I’d always known them. Of course, there is so much more for me to learn, but just to hear their poetry, to see them dance, to see them cook, and to have them challenge me showed me how talented, brilliant, kind, and hardworking they are. Thankfully, some of the students will be attending the summer STAR program, so it’s not a goodbye yet, and I will get to continue to get to know them. To the rest, I will miss them so much and I will miss all that I didn’t get to learn about them. These students knew things that I didn’t figure out until college, they were aware of their community and at the same time they were kids, making mistakes, and sucking up knowledge like little sponges.
I’m not even going to lie, because I have definitely cried or almost cried several times. I’ve cried in awe of their poetry and talent, I’ve cried watching how much they love Sam and how she loves them, and I’ve cried because of the pain a student in particular suffered. A student so strong and resilient. I know she will go far and her strength will continue to carry her through life’s troubles. I wish all the students and Sam the best of luck in life and I hope they can find support in their communities, even as OST comes to an end permanently, I know that the students know they are supported and they have so many people rooting for them!