The last year has shifted the lives of many, including those at St. Joseph’s Noyes Home for Children.
Staff members were recognized with awards for the extra roles they took on as the home shut down. Emylee King, the family service coordinator intern, received the employee of the year award.
“The resilience the kids show me every single day pushes me to work hard for them,” King said.
King said she always knew she wanted to help children as she was adopted herself. It is important to her to give back to the community that supported her, she said.
“I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have and the great role models that I have growing up,” King said. “I just knew I had a heart for it and I just knew that I had it within me to also help any child that maybe came to the foster system or was adopted or is without a home.”
When it was apparent that students wouldn’t be able to participate in a normal school setting due to the shutdown, King approached Noyes Home directors with an idea about a student council, a mascot, spirit days and other activities.
“She was a childcare worker prior to stepping into a family service coordinator intern and she just didn’t let the enormity of it really get in her way,” Chelsea Howlett, executive director of the Noyes Home for Children, said. “She figured out what was going to be the best structure for all of our kids and tailored it truly to each child.”
King worked with case managers, families and teachers to ensure the children’s educational needs were met, Howlett said.
One of the challenges staff faced was keeping the older students engaged in school.
“What they were missing out on (...) was the leadership opportunities within the school for them to have,” King said. “Student Council was one of those things where they just hopped on board and they really took pride within that title they were given and worked really hard to create fun activities for our residents.”
One of the major events that took place was prom for three of the residents who were not able to participate in one at a regular school.
“Emylee, with the support of several members of our team, decorated our downstairs (...) room and truly transformed it into as magical of an ‘Alice and Wonderland’ theme of an event that we possibly could create on our budget,” Howlett said.
King said prom is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that students shouldn’t miss out on.
“I really thought about it because I have a girl that’s graduating high school and that just didn’t sit well with me if she missed her last opportunity to have a prom,” King said.
The girls were able to get dressed up, have their makeup and hair done and even had a surprise limo ride thanks to organizations like His Princess Boutique and Friends, which donated to the event.
Howlett said they were able to focus on other lessons, such as Black history and women’s history, which Kenisha Jenkins, a family service coordinator with the Noyes Home for Children, earned an employee distinction award for organizing.
“We definitely loved the empowerment lessons on women’s history (and) Black American history. ... We all have worth and value and I think that despite the challenges that we’ve had, despite the obstacles that were put in front of us with trying to provide education to kids ranging from kindergarten all the way up to senior year,” Howlett said.
Syliva Brand, a family service coordinator at the Noyes Home, stepped up and offered art and music lessons for the residents and said she has enjoyed the interaction the children have while working on projects.
“Seeing how they (the children) react to art — we had a picture of a sunrise and they’re just, ‘Oh, that’s so beautiful,’ bringing tears to their eyes and to see how art can impact emotion into our kids is a really beautiful thing,” Brand said.
Howlett said some lessons and programs will continue into the next school year and she is grateful for how the staff stepped up to make changes happen.
“The most important thing is to realize that when a kid walks in that front door that they have a whole story. And they have a whole past and all these events that have led them to walk through our front door,” King said. “And it’s important to realize what they’re coming to us with and not just expecting something out of them but wanting to support them to help them succeed. And that’s our mission here.”