Stephanie Ladieu, Site Director for KinderCare Champions LLC in Hooksett, New Hampshire, got involved in out-of-school time to help youth develop, learn, grow and have fun with experiences they don't normally get to do. She's also passionate about providing a safe and fun place that's a destination and not just something youth have to do until their parents or guardians can pick them up.
"Each day is new and different from the one before it," said Ladieu, adding that youth involved in afterschool get to try new things and have experiences they don't get at home.
But she didn't always know this was going to be her path.
Ladieu began working at a camp at age 17 and as she continued her work, she realized a career in education was what she wanted.
"I began my start in afterschool in my senior year of high school," she recalled. "I remembered my own time in afterschool and remember how great it wasn't. I vowed that I would make afterschool better than the experience I had."
When Ladieu went to college, she had the opportunity to return to the afterschool site she was previously working at. She continued working there until graduating college. She was still set on teaching, but after earning her masters, Ladieu found it difficult to get a job.
"In 2019, after the start of a rough school year, I got the opportunity to work full-time in the field of afterschool," Ladieu recalled, noting that afterschool has pushed her out of her comfort zone and challenged her in ways she never thought possible. "Afterschool has also given me a new outlook on what the field of education can be. We teach just the same as a classroom teacher, and help youth explore new ways of learning."
Ladieu says the young people she works with have made the journey in the field of afterschool the best.
"Even on the most challenging of days or unexpected circumstances that throw you for a loop, each day is worth it," she said. "This field has also allowed me to meet people who are just as passionate about working with youth as I am."
One of those ways Ladieu has connected with others in the field is through her membership with NAA. It has also provided her with opportunities to learn new things about the field.
"I've utilized NAA's resources for professional development opportunities and to learn how to grow and develop my afterschool program," she said, noting the weekly enewsletter resources are something she always looks forward to. "My NAA membership has allowed me to listen to different webinars with quality presentations and engaging topics about how to help the youth we work with, how to help yourself, and how to make afterschool the best field to be in."
While Ladieu hasn't had the opportunity to attend NAA's Annual Convention, she hopes to one day make it there to connect with her peers in the field.
"An afterschool professional must always be learning and finding ways to better themselves, and being connected to the National AfterSchool Association has done that," Ladieu said. "When I'm at a loss for what I can do for my program or if I need a Professional Development Day to share with my peers or staff, NAA always has engaging and interesting materials for me to go to."
Ladieu appreciates that NAA's resources are constantly changing to provide materials on topics that are current and relevant to the field.
"I feel I'm a better director with my NAA membership," she said. "Our team shares resources that we've found on the NAA site and emails with one another."
To connect to more afterschool professionals around the country, upgrade to an Executive membership today. Look for more "Stories That Shape Us" experiences and perspectives in upcoming enewsletters.
Courtesy of NAA.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Ladieu.