When you have a passion for inspiring and empowering kids, no other job seems quite right.
Jeremy Hackbarth knew a long time ago he had an ability to pull from the adults that inspired him and turn that around to share with others.
Hackbarth joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Nappanee Clubhouse as athletic supervisor after being involved with youth groups at Nappanee Missionary Church.
“I’ve always known that I connect with kids when some people don’t think they can. I think it’s because I ran into so many people like that when I was a kid,” he said. “I want to be the nicest person I can for the kids to help them develop and watch them grow.”
Hackbarth spent the past two summers working at the church’s summer camp for high school students. He said volunteering there solidified his commitment to work with young adults, kids and teens. His work at a faith-based rehab center also strengthened the desire.
“I loved working with the men and hearing their stories, but I want to get to them before they make those decisions. If we can stop them now, they’ll make better choices later,” he said.
Hackbarth said young people need to see light in a good direction so they can take off on a path toward success.
“As a kid, I saw people with the light in them and just wanted to be like those people,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me is encouragement. I want them to know they can do something instead of stopping because they think they can’t.”
In the gym, he stresses teamwork.
“When you have people around you who are supportive, even at that young age, it helps. I try to do activities that everyone can be involved in. I’m trying to show them that they can work together on certain things and just be kind to each other to get results.”
Hackbarth said he was sometimes bullied as a kid, but found that sports created a safe space for him. He wants to make sure all kids have a safe space at Club — even when they’re having a bad day.
“My first instinct isn’t to discipline, but rather to come along and help them through whatever is causing them to act up,” he said.
Hackbarth again points to wisdom he gained from an adult mentor.
“There was something someone said to me a long time ago. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but he said, ‘You have this ability to make everyone feel like they’re your best friend.’ I’ve always carried that with me, and I try to do that whenever I meet someone.”