It’s not the professional path Emily Keyser thought she’d pursue, but it’s a path that has allowed her to do more than she envisioned when she applied to work at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County.
The education supervisor for the Middlebury Club started working for Club at the start of the pandemic. With a degree in educational ministries and a masters in local church ministry she was looking for something close to home.
“Everything was shut down and I moved back home. I originally applied to work the front counter, but I was encouraged to work in the junior room (with 3rd through 5th graders). Last year I transitioned into the Learning Center.”
It’s a transition that has turned into a passion — one where her training is coming in handy.
“Building connections and doing life together I can pour into people, even if it’s not direct church ministry,” she said. “I feel like I can use a lot of what I learned in my classes as part of this job.”
Keyser says it’s all about being present for others.
“Working with the kids, I can be that safe person and help them realize they are still developing their character. You can play a part in helping them grow into responsible citizens.”
During her studies in college, she volunteered for a non-profit organization that focused on girls. Something she learned there has stuck with her.
“They told us that it’s easier to build them up when they’re younger than try to repair them later in life.”
In the Learning Center, she’s responsible for helping implement the Club’s Indiana Kids programming.
The overall goal of the state program is to increase children’s scores on the reading and math fluency tests. Children are also learning about college, career, job readiness, workforce skill development, leadership development and volunteerism.
“I can help with the educational aspect. I’ve learned all about the Indiana Kids programs, and I love helping coordinate all the requirements for that.”
She’s also worked hard to create a calm place where kids can study in the Club.
“When I was their age, I was quiet and shy. I know a lot of them can get overwhelmed in the game rooms. I want to create a quieter place for them,” Keyser said. “They can be rewarded for their hard work on studies or for working quietly.”
Her main mission — making connections with the members.
“As cliche as it sounds, just connecting with one kid is a reward. Even if I’m only helping one kids by making their day, it feels rewarding,” she said. “If you’re working with kids you have so many personalities to deal with. By trying to connect with at least one, you feel like you’re accomplishing something.”