When Your Passion Becomes Your Career
“I am a child of God with the ability to achieve my dreams.”
That’s not just a mantra we want our kids to believe; it’s a mantra that our staff holds true, too. It’s safe to say that all of our Fortress staff members got involved here initially because of a passion to serve, but I’d wager that few of us ever imagined it would become a career.
I always say that it's funny how I found my dream job leading a nonprofit that works with kids, because... I've never been much of a kid person. Never enjoyed babysitting, always barely tolerated other people's kids - mostly because I loved their parents enough to play nice with them (mostly kidding). Of course, I adore and cherish my own kids. And these Fortress kids? They've become my own, too, and I love them with my whole heart. I love seeing kids who’ve grown up at Fortress when they come back to visit. I love running into them out and about and being received with big hugs. But I'm also glad I get to mostly sit it my quiet office behind my laptop, leaving the hard work to the pros in our classrooms. That I get to do this job everyday and watch our staff do amazing things with our precious kids and their families is a gift for which I am profoundly grateful.
This month marks the beginning of my tenth year at Fortress - a career I never could've dreamed up for myself. A calling that I never would've believed was mine. A blessing that I never could have anticipated. And I’m not alone.
Shanique started at Fortress 9 years ago, a timid teenager placed here through a work program that helped urban youth find jobs. Almost immediately, we recognized that she had a gift for working with preschoolers. In fact, we believed in her much more that she believed in herself! Over the years, she watched closely as Ms. Jenn led our preschool, soaking up her techniques and mannerisms, and then emulating them with her own classes. Eventually, she began to believe in her ability and took on leadership responsibilities such as drafting lesson plans and mentoring new teachers. The kids love her. On our first day of After School this year, our new PreK4s and Kindergarteners were rambunctious and totally out of control. After half a class period was spent trying to establish order, Ms. Shanique was called in to help. As soon as she rounded the corner, the kids squealed and screamed with delight. ‘MS. SHANIQUE!!!” they roared, recognizing their beloved preschool teacher. Ms. Shanique put her hand in the air and said simply, “No. Stop. You have hurt my feelings.” The kids froze. Not a sound was made. “I taught you better than this. You know how to respect your teacher. You know how to follow directions. I heard that you’re not doing that. And that hurts my feelings, because I taught you better.” Order was restored. Respect, indeed.
Shanique excels at her job. That job… has become a calling. And that calling is now a career. This summer, Shanique completed her coursework and earned her CDA (Child Development Associate) Credential, making her a licensed teacher. She was joined in this accomplishment by two of her coworkers, Melissa and Nedra. We are so proud of these ladies for the hours they put in after work every week to make their dream a reality.
It’s been said that the things you are passionate about are not random; they are your calling.
What a blessing to have a staff full of passionate, mission-minded, servant-hearted people. #ilovemyjob
-Stacy Agee, Director of Communications and Development