Brandis Stockman's reasoning for wanting to work in out-school-time is simple: To be the person she needed when she was younger.
Stockman, who is the Deputy Director of Promise South Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah, says she was always terrible at sports growing up.
"As a child, I was surrounded by kids who were naturally athletic, and even though I always received excellent grades in school, I felt like a failure because I couldn't play basketball or hockey as well as everyone else could," Stockman said. "But I was a stubborn child. I tried out for every sports team my school had, even though I couldn't play well. And, despite being the worst player by far, I was always picked for the team."
On top of that, Stockman got just as much playing time as everyone else, whether it was during scrimmages or competition.
"My PE teacher believed in me, and clearly saw the value of allowing all students to participate as opposed to purely focusing on athletic skill and competition, as I've seen many other coaches do," Stockman said, recalling this same teacher gifting her a copy of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss on her eighth-grade graduation. "This belief gave me the confidence to keep trying, despite the hesitations I had."
Something Stockman was decidedly better at was participating in her afterschool Brownie troop. She still remembers many of the songs they sang, the badges she earned and all the friends that were made.
"At the end of my first year in the troop, new girls were chosen for various roles, and I was shocked to be picked as a group leader," said Stockman, explaining most girls first became "seconders" or "second in charge" before having the honor of leading a group. "But of the 40 girls in the troop, there was something that the adults saw in me that made them feel like I would be the best choice to lead my own group. I remember feeling special in that role; a random adult believed in me and from that moment, I saw myself as capable of becoming a strong leader."
When Stockman was 13, her mother passed due to a devastating and rare neurological disease. This loss was the beginning of Stockman's life spiraling out of control.
"I spent my teenage years feeling alone and unsupported," she said. "I had no adults on my side—no parents, no Brownie leader, no teachers ... no one. I dealt with abuse, depression, substance misuse, bullying, self-harm, homelessness and I became completely indifferent about my future. I had teachers, who despite knowing what I had been through, decide to ridicule and alienate me, pushing me further into my abyss."
When Stockman felt like life couldn't get much worse, she remembered her PE teacher and Brownie leader and the confidence they had in her.
"I told myself, 'you're better than this!' and I kept telling myself this until one day, I really was."
When Stockman entered her senior year of high school, she realized it was time to seriously think about where she was going and who she was. Her mother had been a big inspiration, having been a social worker who had exposed Stockman to people from many different backgrounds.
"I will never forget the day she told me that she spent 45 minutes assisting an autistic client after he had put endless amounts of pebbles from the playground into his underwear," Stockman recalled. "At the time, I remember thinking that she was crazy to have chosen such a difficult profession. But the kind words spoken by the hundreds of people who attended her funeral showed me why she did what she did. I realized that I wanted nothing more than to have such a rewarding career, and I became laser focused on putting myself through college, with the goal of supporting others like my mother had."
While she had 13 years with her mother, who was kind and loving and supportive, Stockman says all it took was a few negative adults to tear her down.
"If my high school teachers had taken the time to get to know me, if they had encouraged me or helped me find and build on my strengths, my teenage years would have been completely different," Stockman said. "If only I had experienced a positive afterschool program, where caring adults guided me to explore my passions, talked me through the general challenges of being a teenager, and helped me deal with my trauma, I have no doubt this would have had an extremely positive impact on my life."
Stockman is grateful for all of her experiences, both positive and negative, because that journey has brought her to an understanding of the true impact we can have on others.
"When I am working with youth and staff in afterschool programming, I have the opportunity every day to be the Brownie leader and the PE teacher for someone else," she said. "I truly can't think of anything more meaningful and rewarding than this."
NAA has demonstrated to Stockman how "big" the work in the out-of-school time field is.
"Knowing that there is a large group of people out there doing the same work, advocating for the same things, and working so hard to support entire communities is inspiring and motivates me to want to do better every day," Stockman said. "The professional development provided by NAA has also greatly supported my skill development, and my ability to better support my team."
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 Brandis Stockman