Norma Cumbee: Pre-Teen Center

Please tell us a little about your background and what brought you to BGCB.
Upon graduating UMASS Boston, I was met with a volunteer opportunity to practice Restorative Justice with preteens at the Timilty School in Roxbury. My mission there was to build an environment suitable for sharing experiences relative to school, home life, and community through the use of talking circles in the classroom. This work empowered me so much that I ultimately chose youth development as a career path. Six years later, here I am at BGCB continuing to shape youthful minds into thinking better of themselves despite the difficulties they may be going through.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Acknowledging every kid by name every day as they walk through the pre-teen lounge doors is what I enjoy most about my job. I enjoy the unique ways in which youth respond to their greeting. Some with a handshake, a head nod, words, or even silence. The way they react really speaks to their personality and the energy they’re contributing to the space that day. I use greetings as a way to check the emotional temperature of the room and to let them know that I know they are there.

What do you like about being employed by BGCB?
I like the feeling of being part of something greater than myself. By having access to BGCB resources, I am able to expose youth to opportunities that may not have been available to them otherwise. I like how this organization allows for me to create positive memories for youth that last a lifetime, while also feeling fulfilled throughout the process as a staff member. It’s a win-win for everybody.

What are you looking forward to this year, and what are some of your favorite parts of your job?
I am looking forward to transforming the activities in the space to be more aligned with how things will operate on the teen side so that there is less of a culture shock as they leave a rotational schedule to a more free-choice environment. With that being said, I hope to engage in more workshops with preteens to build the life skills they’ll need to better face the outside world. My favorite part is preparing them to thoughtfully see the world and building in them the confidence to exist within it.

How do you describe your job to friends and family?
I tell everyone that I am a coach. Life is the game, the members are the players and, to the best of my ability, it is on me to prepare them for the game of life outside the Club.

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