In today’s complicated world, young people need to be encouraged and know there are caring adults who are willing to listen. That’s what motivates and inspires Nicole Sullivan each day.
Sullivan is the education supervisor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Elkhart Clubhouse. She’s been with the organization for the past nine years.
“I feel if kids don’t know they’re good at something, they get in a negative head space and then they can’t do it,” Sullivan said. “When they see they can do it, it’s a different attitude and it goes into other aspects of their lives. When they encounter a problem in another area, they realize they can conquer that, too.”
She particularly enjoys helping members see what is possible in the future.
“I get to do all kinds of things — especially running the career sessions. It’s showing them all the stuff you want to be. I get to explore that with the kids and show them all the options out there.”
Sullivan said many young people don’t realize that they have the potential to do great things — like becoming an astronaut — if they’re willing to put in the effort.
“This summer we talked about video games, and they didn’t realize that to make a game there are 20 different jobs involved,” she said.
The past couple of years have been challenging and pandemic fallout is still being felt.
“The biggest thing I notice is they are struggling with teamwork and working together. They want to work by themselves even if they have friends in the group,” Sullivan said.
They’re working on setting expectations for group projects to make those efforts more enjoyable.
“I want them to realize it may not turn out how they imagine, but the result is still great. We want to put them in charge of aspects they are good at. It helps them realize their strengths and the strengths of others.”
She’s also working to help the public understand the great things happening inside the walls of the Clubhouse.
“I think some people see us as babysitters, but we do a lot of skill building. Our staff is good at helping the members look at things from another perspective. They’re getting things they can’t get at school. There is some freedom here to build those skills.”
Her measure of success at the end of the day is all about making connections with the young people in her care.
“The kids I enjoy working with most are the ones who struggle more. When you can get them to open up, it’s important to me because not everyone takes the time to work with them,” she said. “If I was able to connect and have a meaningful conversation with one of the kids, it was a good day.”