Ayers started at BCC in 2014 as a Child Care Worker on the Denton Campus covered in beef stew (Not a typo! read on for the full story). In October 2015, she was selected to manage a community-based program BCC received a grant to start. Ayers graduated in 2004 with a B.S. from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in human ecology (child development concentration). A Dover, DE native, Ayres has spent her career to date focused on helping young adolescents.
You’re at a BBQ and somebody asks you what you do. How do you describe your role? The kids and the families you work with?
I start with the basics and just tell them I work at a group home in the community. I admit I do get a few funny looks. I think that comes from the stereotype that some people have of who lives at a group home. Or they think that because I’m a girl that I shouldn’t be working with adolescents with behavior challenges! But I just tell them the kids are awesome and that it’s your relationship with them that matters more. Not how big or strong you are.
Who have been mentors for you as you’ve started your career?
I would definitely say Karen has been a role model (Ed. Note: Karen McGee, Denton’s Program Director). I can ask her anything and I learn something from her every time. My older sister is another – she’s like my second mom. She kind of raised me because my mom worked an overnight job.
Do you get a lot of support from your family for what you do?
At first I don’t think they really understood why I wanted to do this. Even though my sister is older we’ve actually been living very parallel education and work lives. We graduated from our respective colleges a week apart. My sister is working at a group home in Delaware as a parent aid and my cousin actually just started a job in the human services field. So now it’s becoming more of a family thing and I think everyone understands a little better who we’re actually helping and how much of an impact we are making.
So the “stew” story we gather is kind of famous on campus. Could you share what happened on your first day?
My first day at BCC is definitely a story shared often around here. I was sitting with two boys at lunch and they started to argue about something. One of them accidentally spilled his bowl of beef stew all over me. I finished my shift and believe me each day since I have kept a spare set of clothes in my car! I guess some people would have said this job wasn’t for them after something like that, but I knew after that first day I was supposed to be here.
You’ve switched roles from Child Care Worker to working on this Community Program grant. Tell us about that.
About a year ago BCC was awarded a grant from Caroline county to do more therapy with young adults who were exhibiting “at risk” behaviors. The work was really focused on early intervention and trying to keep them out of the foster care or juvenile court system. This year Caroline county shifted the focus of our work to target youth who have at least one parent recently released from incarceration.
I do a lot of work on just basic communication. When a young person hasn’t had this adult figure in their life for some time it can be difficult to reconnect (and vice versa for the adult – they feel awkward and don’t know what to talk about). I’m excited because this work is all about strengthening families and the stronger we can make them, the stronger the community will be overall.
What’s next for you? Going back to school?
My next life adventure is definitely graduate school. I’m going to try to do my degree online because I really like this job and don’t want to leave!
If you could snap your fingers and something could be different, what would it be?
Probably extend the day. There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to!