Jackira Sheppard always wanted to work with kids. Her passion for helping them succeed is evident when you walk into the juniors room at the Elkhart Clubhouse.
Sheppard was promoted to coordinator of the room in June.
“I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I always want to help in the community and help kids grow into good citizens. I just have a heart for kids,” she said.
Her philosophy is simple. Develop young members into the leaders she knows they can be. Sometimes that involves helping them understand that others watch their actions closely.
“I let some of the older kids know they are the leaders for the room. What they do others will catch on and start doing it. It’s a domino effect. When you see someone doing good, it catches on,” Sheppard said.
When members have an issue, she wants them to feel comfortable coming to her instead of reacting in a confrontational way with other members. She said she works hard to connect with the kids each day.
“It starts with going around every morning with a greeting. I know their names and have mini-conversations when they first get here. Then, when they get overstimulated, I have something to base a conversation on to calm them back down,” Sheppard said.
She wants kids to understand that it’s normal to get overwhelmed from time to time.
“It’s OK for them to ask to go get some water or stand in the hall for a few minutes to calm down. Then we can talk about it. Having conversations is a good way to calm things down. They do like to talk – they’ll talk my ear off,” she joked.
Sheppard knows that structure is important for members. She repeats the rules each day, so they know what’s expected.
“A lot of kids tell me they feel safe in the junior room. That makes me feel like I’m doing what I am here to do. I want them to have safe place and safe people they can talk to about anything,” she said.
Sheppard sees potential in each child and wants them to be engaged in Club activities and programs.
“There is a lot of passion there. Some of them don’t have the skills yet to express themselves as young leaders. When I can help them with that, it’s inspiring. There are future doctors and teachers in here, and I’m fortunate to help inspire them. I love it.”