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2018 — an opportunity to grow

January 17, 2018 - Tiffany Larson
Blog: January 2018 The year 2018 is upon us. New year resolutions have been set, and many are tackling their fresh list of priorities they've set for the new year. One priority I have for this year is to help plan my twenty-year high school reunion. It will be taking place this summer, right here in Webster City. The planning committee has be brainstorming ideas for the weekend event. We thought it would be great to have classmates submit photos from high school and present day to be put into a slide show. Individuals can share their favorite high school moments, clubs, and activities. In addition, their present day photos can highlight their successes, their families, and any other tidbit that they want classmates to be aware of. While searching through tubs of old photos, I found myself reminiscing. I found myself reflecting on my high school years, my goals and dreams I had as a teen, and the path that led me to where I am today.

The last 20 years have been a roller coaster ride. There have been ups and downs. I have gone through a lot of personal and professional growth along the way, and my learning is continuous. When I graduated, I set off to Iowa State as a naïve, small-town farm girl with an undecided major. I had ideas, but not a lot of truly thought out goals. Life experiences, both positive and negative, impacted my list of goals. Somewhere in my seven-years of college I found a passion. A passion for wanting to help others. I had the opportunity to complete my practicum right here in Webster City. I was able to work for YSS, Youth Standing Strong. At the time it was known as the Youth and Family Center. I was able to shadow amazing youth workers that reaffirmed that working with youth and families was where my future was. The hands-on experience in those short few months provided me with tools and education that would be beneficial in future endeavors.

In 2008, I moved back home and started a job that to this day still inspires me. I have the pleasure of offering programming and services to help empower ALL adolescents to make healthy informed decisions through education and community awareness. In all honesty, this job found me by circumstance. I was taking care of my grandparents when I saw the job posting in the Daily Freeman Journal. When I left my job as a Caseworker to take care of my grandparents, I was managing the care of male juveniles with mental health issues, different family dynamics, substance abuse issues, background risk taking behaviors, sexual abuse, and other risk factors. Some were teen parents. Some of them had parents or caregivers that rarely visited. I knew that this was my opportunity to put prevention first. I knew that it was on opportunity to build skills in youth to help them become healthy and successful, and help build skills in parents and other adults for them to become more approachable adults. Plus, I like to talk. I like to talk about whatever topic. Those tough topics like sexual health are just as important to talk about as riding our bikes, eating healthy veggies, and exercising. I felt that I could be that “go-to” person to help start those conversations. With the blessings of my family, I applied for the position and was hired. I chose a career in Child, Adult, and Family Services (Human Services) because I am passionate about helping others. I want to help make a difference in the lives of children, adults, and families as a whole. It took going to my classes, interviewing different professionals in the field, completing my practicum, and “real-life” field experience to get me to the career I am in today.

There are so many positives that I could share about my job. The absolute best part would be the opportunity to work with youth. I love being able to be an approachable adult for youth to come to with questions. I enjoy collaborating with community partners to brainstorm ways to involve youth, keep them safe, and make sure they are healthy and successful. I am passionate about being able to inspire youth to find their voice, find their inner creativity, to increase their life skills, and to become involved in their communities. It makes me smile when I am able to bridge gaps and connect youth to approachable adults, community resources, or whatever they choose as needs in their community that will them thrive today, tomorrow, or in their future.

I find it fitting that these first two weeks of 2018 I get the pleasure of partnering in classrooms and for a Career Fair during J-Term at Webster City High School. For those unaware, this is the second year it is taking place in the district. It is a learning approach designed to give students more critical thinking, work-readiness skills, and help build skills to be prepared to work in the real-world, post high school. In addition, they are completing passion projects. This term is connecting students with a potential future career and/or training. They are being connected with local community groups, organizations, and businesses. Ultimately, they are building tools and resources that could help lead them in the direction of a path they want to choose for their future. I play just a small part in this whole term; presenting on various health-related topics, talking about my experience in the human service field, and helping with mock interviews. However, the long-term outcomes will be huge. The teachers and community partners are assisting the youth in accomplishing their goals and dreams, as they are our future mentors and leaders. The teens are being provided an opportunity that I would have dreamed of being part of twenty years ago. On opportunity really to dig deep and look at hoe they are the architects of their future, and it is up to them on how to make their future goals happen.

As I think about the past two decades post high school, my experience in the “real-world,” and this J-Term opportunity, I have many tidbits come to mind to share. My top take-away to leave you with can be for both youth and adults. If you could do one thing to transform your life, I would highly recommend it to be to find something you are passionate about, and do it for a living. It is never too late to go after your dreams, and 2018 is the perfect opportunity grow personally and professionally. You can learn from past obstacles and challenges, and make this the best year yet!


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