I grew up in the Elgin area northwest of Chicago and was a School District U-46 student. My parents were also U-46 grads and were passionate about my brother and I attending public school. During my experiences in U-46, I noticed that public schools were the one place in our society that opens its doors to everyone. Public schools not only serve students, but families and communities.
That’s where my passion for public education started — and my journey of lifelong learning. After earning a master’s degree in School Social Work and Public Policy from the University of Chicago, I worked as a school social worker for five years. I returned to school to get a master’s in Educational Leadership and worked as a school administrator for four years. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. through the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, where I’m writing my dissertation on inclusive practices in public schools.
When I was a school administrator, I felt like I could control what happened between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., but my students and families needed more than that. There is power in an extended day and the services that can be provided before and after school, particularly when we think about providing equitable access and opportunities for some of our most vulnerable children.
That’s what brought me to Right At School. In my role as partnership manager, I support potential district partners who want to learn about Right At School and how we can support their strategic goals while serving their students and families.
My background is in social work so I’m always thinking about the “person-in-environment.” Since 2020, our environment has dramatically changed. The school experience is different, and kids are different. That means our educational programs must be different, too.
Today, programs in school and during out-of-school time must address the development of the whole child. This includes academic learning, emotional wellness, cognitive development, mental health, and physical health. When students come through the doors of our schools, they rely on us to provide consistency and structure. They look to us to build positive relationships and trust. When we do that, we create a safe, comfortable environment where they can engage in learning.
In Right At School’s before and after school enrichment programs, students know they have a place where they can learn, play, and grow. They know they have a caring adult who will greet them by name and be genuinely happy to see them each day. They know they can take part in fun activities, explore their interests, play games, build relationships, develop leadership skills, and get their homework done. In addition, all of that happens on-site at school — a place where they already feel comfortable and safe.
By implementing inclusive practices in this environment, we create a sense of belonging for students and their families. Research shows that outcomes for students are better when families are engaged. Districts that partner with Right At School not only give families peace of mind, but they provide another way to help families feel connected to their child’s school.
Schools are microcosms of our greater social worlds. When we think about making an impact, school is where so much of that happens. It’s where we can truly make a difference. That’s what I love most about my job — making a difference. When we partner with schools, we are empowering the next generation. We’re addressing families’ needs and reducing their stress. We’re supporting educators and enabling them to focus on their academic mission. We’re cultivating relationships and building trust, and creating engaged communities.
The needs of students and families are changing, and schools are changing, too. School is no longer simply a place to go from 8 to 3; it is a hub that connects students and families to the programs and services they need to thrive. It’s the center of an entire ecosystem where everyone belongs.