Juan is a Skill Builder in the CEDARS Pioneers Center, which is the only emergency shelter for youth in Southeast Nebraska.
CEDARS: Hi, Juan! Tell us one of your favorite childhood memories.
Juan: I think my favorite childhood memory was the first time I learned to ride a bike. My uncle was teaching me and I got the hang of it but I could not balance myself because I was going too slowly so my uncle decided to let me roll down a hill. He pushed me down the hill and I screamed “I am doing it!” Then I screamed “How do you stop this thing!” My uncle screamed and next thing you know I slammed into a car and broke my nose.
CEDARS: CEDARS Pioneers Center is known for providing short-term care to youth who do not have immediate access to a safe or more appropriate living situation. During their stay with us, youth participate in activities that are designed to help them build character, competence, confidence, compassion and connections while we facilitate their movement to a more appropriate place of care, such as home or with a foster family. What does that look like on a day-to-day basis?
Juan: Every day is different. Sometimes I play sports with the youth or play board games or video games. Other days I am sitting down with a youth and listening to their life story. I really enjoy working with a youth one-on-one because I enjoy hearing their story and helping them to grow.
CEDARS: What keeps you coming to work each day?
Juan: I think the main thing that keeps me wanting to come back to work each day is my childhood. I was a problematic kid and I had a really close friend who always saw the good in me and directed me in the right direction. Thanks to her I think I learned to look for the good in other people. Now I look for the good in each youth.
CEDARS: How do your values play a role in your work?
Juan: My most important values are being respectful and showing empathy towards youth. Also, being patient with them since the youth we are working with have been through so much and that impacts how they are able to cope with the many changes they are currently experiencing. It is a process and compassion helps.
CEDARS: What is your favorite part about your job?
Juan: My favorite part about the job is seeing youth grow throughout their time here. Through their stay, you can see how each youth start to lower their defenses and open up to a staff member about their personal feelings.
CEDARS: What is something you want to make sure everyone knows about the CEDARS Pioneers Center?
Juan: The most important thing I’ve learn while working in the Pioneers Center is to give the youth a clean slate every day. What happened yesterday doesn’t need to affect today.