One of the best things about Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is the people. Nebraska Children is made up of passionate people dedicated to making positive change.
Most recently, Chloe Mcshannon has embodied the role of a young leader. As a Beyond School Bells (BSB) and Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) participant, Chloe has long leveraged her talents through Nebraska Children.
For the past few years, she’s been a Camp Catch-Up (CCU) staff member. A CYI program, Camp Catch-Up, reunites siblings who were separated by foster care placements.
Recently, Chloe has joined forces with BSB and CYI. Together, these two initiatives used CARES Act dollars to create well-paying internships for young people who have experienced foster care.
While CYI promotes positive outcomes for young people who experienced foster care, BSB creates and sustains high-quality expanded learning partnerships throughout the state.
Together, these initiatives and Central Plains Center for Services (CPCS) leveraged CARES Act dollars to develop a well-paying opportunity for CYI participants to make a difference in school-age students’ lives.
Young people like Chloe work with students in the Omaha and Lincoln Public Schools’ afterschool programs.
Chloe is currently an intern at Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) and works alongside para educators. Best of all, Chloe advocates for children and young people through this experience.
Chloe said she is given a good deal of responsibility in her role, especially in learning about and supporting the students.
“I get to learn how to work with kids with different triggers and behaviors,” said Chloe. “I’ve gained resources and knowledge that I can share.”
Chloe said that she appreciates how LPS supports some families who may struggle to afford specific necessities. She enjoys building relationships with the students while witnessing how the para adapts to different children and behaviors.
Some students have left an impression on Chloe’s mind and heart.
“There are two or three kids that come to mind. None of them are bad; they have big feelings they don’t know how to navigate. The first is in kindergarten. He has behaviors probably due to a lack of control, so he wants to be in control of his schedule,” she said.
Chloe said that some days can be challenging as she learns more about how to work with and earn the trust of her young friends. The good news is that she’s learning a lot and developing bonds.
“It’s been a struggle. I’ve learned that when you’re working with [students], you can give them options,” said Chloe.
“When we’re having an issue [with a particular student], I say, ‘You have two options: you can walk, or we can carry you; which would you like?’ He’ll pick someone to carry him. Sometimes, there are more difficulties because he doesn’t want to go,” she said.
In addition to learning strategies to enhance trust and decrease challenging behaviors, Chloe relates to some students’ struggles.
“Another kid has a difficult family situation,” she said. “For this kid, a lot goes on in his head. He gets stuck in his thoughts. He doesn’t like to verbalize what’s happening; that’s hard for him. You can sit there and say, ‘You broke your Legos. Do you need help putting them back together?’”
Chloe said that when she breaks through students’ barriers, everything becomes much more accessible.
“Once you know them and are willing to provide them with what they need, it’ll be fine,” she said.
Chloe said she identifies with these young people’s challenges. Having experienced foster care, she spent some of her teenage years running away from group homes. As she grew into adulthood, she became the change she wanted to see, especially in the foster care system.
One situation, in particular, ignited Chloe’s urge to create positive change.
“The boy I was talking about before has an older sister. That little girl was, in my opinion, in a group home that I’d never see as a place for an elementary school child,” she said.
Chloe said her experience allows her to connect with students with similar tribulations.
Meanwhile, Chloe continues to care for all of the students at her place of work. She reserves a special place in her mind and heart for those young people in her care.
“We have students in care and group homes,” said Chloe. “I wouldn’t say they require special care, but I give it to them. They’re going through more than our other kids.”
Despite the challenges, Chloe said she enjoyed this experience. “This has been a positive experience for my career. It’s a necessary learning experience for my professional growth,” she said.
“I have created strong relationships with kids and created a strong relationship with the organization, so I don’t have to say goodbye,” said Chloe.
Chloe said she feels an extra intense connection with some of the younger boys she knows are dealing with a lot.
“I have stronger connections with younger boys. There’s this one girl who’s extremely smart beyond her years; she’s a fourth grader and knows how to play chess. I can’t imagine anything else than a bright future. I hope I get to see them flourish into these great adults I know they will be,” said Chloe.
“It’s been awesome seeing them build relationships with other interns and staff. They have their safe people. It’s good to know they can run to these people whenever they feel uncomfortable, safe, or unhappy.”
In addition to learning how to enact trauma-informed approaches, Chloe plans to pursue a career in policy to strengthen the foster care system.
“If I’m advocating for bills and changes, I want to be familiar with laws,” she said. “I went to a conference with Mona [CCU Director and my CCU supervisor], so I learned more about siblings’ rights laws,” she said.
Overall, Chloe said she had supplemented her toolbox of support.
“I’ve become more trauma-informed. I’ve learned these two kids can go through the same thing and need different forms of care and reassurance, and I’ve learned different ways to reassure and care for them,” said Chloe.
Chloe said one of the most pivotal moments of the internship included when she realized that she might not understand every child, but that empathy is enough.
“With some of these kids, I can’t always relate to [them], but I’ve learned how to be empathetic in a way they can relate to them,” she said.
Given that CCU also works with systems-involved children and young people, Chloe said there are similarities and differences between school and camp.
“It’s two different environments and structures; it’s great to know how to work with these kids in different places and rules. If I choose to do something in a school para, or psychology, this [position] will prepare me for that,” she said.
Recently, Chloe received terrific news from LPS, including a full-time job offer with a Community Learning Center!
Along with her promotion, Chloe looks forward to undertaking more responsibilities.
Chloe’s new position will entail that of the lead teacher. “I’ll care for eight kids and have a raise!” she said.
As an organization that lives out our mission for all children and families to thrive, we can’t underestimate Chloe’s impact that she has on these students. Sometimes, we only have the smaller moments to change a person’s life; sometimes, those smaller moments are more than enough.
Your support is instrumental in helping young adults like Chloe find solid ground and hope for the future. To make a gift, visit https://www.nebraskachildren.org/get-involved/give-today.html
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