Special Moments at the Beth

February 26th, 2019

Special Moments at the Beth                           

Hello! My name is Brooklynn Ray, but I go by Marie. I am currently a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I’m also a social work intern at the Bethlehem Center (the Beth), and I’m currently working with the Education Department. Working at the Beth has become a part of my life, which means that everyone who knows me knows that the Beth is all I talk about. I’m either discussing how my day was, which child impacted me, or my plans to help these kids in the future whether with their education, their behavior, or to help them grow in all aspects of life. The Beth has become a second home to me! The students there have become like my own kids, and I love them with every piece of me.

For example, I was originally assigned to work with the middle schoolers, known as the Butterflies. I have a very close connection with each one of them. I’m aware of what they like, dislike, what intrigues them, and even the way they speak (because most times they like to speak in codes, lol). During my time with them, I have strongly bonded with one special girl in particular named Quinntazia. When we first met it was a little rocky.  I was new, which meant the kids would try to see what they could get away with. Quinntazia tried that for the first week but soon realized that I wasn’t mean, but I wasn’t going to allow her and the other students to walk over me.

  After that, we became close. One day she was having a hard time and felt like no one was listening to her so I sat with her, told her it was okay, and that she could speak to me and let me know what was going on. We would work together on how to solve the problem. That day she began to trust me and the bond continued to grow from there. Since then she makes sure to hug me and say hello and goodbye. I love her like she is my own child, and I’m happy to see how much she has grown in school and in her behavior. Speaking with her more and more has made me see a little bit of myself in her when I was younger. I can’t wait to see how much she grows with the right tools and support.Another child who has strongly impacted me is Shatorria.

      Working with Shatorria has shown me patience because sometimes she can be a handful whether she’s talking all day, dancing, joking around, or just wants some love. She is very passionate about whatever she is discussing or interested in, and I love her for that. When she is focused on a negative topic such as bad behavior, an incident at school, or daily life issues, I have learned how to change her focus or discussion to something positive. Shatorria also had a breakthrough moment with me as well. While having a bad day, she trusted me enough to sit down with me and let everything go so we could begin to have a better rest of the day. Shatorria is very strong-minded, very protective, and very affectionate. She makes sure that every day she asks if she can hug me just to show love and that she cares. I love her like she is also mine.

          These two girls have changed my life and have made my time at the Beth greater than what it could have been.  I look forward to seeing them every time I’m at the Beth. I am also lucky because on Wednesdays I’m allowed to eat lunch with them at their school and discuss anything they want. I’m also thankful to work at the Beth because when I was younger I lived in Nashville, TN and also grew up in a community center called Bethlehem Center!  That place helped me grow into the person I am today, and I’m happy that I can now be a part of a similar organization. Hopefully, I will have a strong impact on the kids here, just like the center had on me when I was younger.

Marie Ray

Marie is a senior at UTC majoring in social work. She enjoys cooking, singing, and traveling. She is a part of the Littleton H. Mason Singers at UTC and has traveled to Ireland, Whales, England, and France. She plans to continue her travel adventures! After graduation she plans to attend Southern Adventist University in fall 2019 and receive her Master's in Social Work. Afterwards, her goal is to be a marriage and family therapist.

Posted by The Beth

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
Victory, Not Victims

Hello! My name is Grace Rains, and I am currently working as a social work intern here at the Bethlehem Center through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Anyone who knows me knows that all I really talk about anymore is the Beth, the kids at the Beth, or upcoming events concerning the Beth. From an outsider’s perspective, this agency is an older building that sits in the midst of the Alton Park community that takes care of kids every day after-school. From an intern’s perspective, I’m here to tell you that this place is so much more than an after-school program – it’s a family.

Coming into this internship, I thought I knew what it meant to put myself in someone else’s shoes. Then I met a little girl named Jamariya. She lives near the Beth with her mom and siblings. If anyone has a reason to feel like a victim, it’s her. Jamariya comes from a single-parent, low-income household, and lives in a notoriously high-risk neighborhood for crime. However, after spending time in the Eggs classroom (our K - 1st graders), I realized that she is one of the best students in her class. During snack time, she doesn’t care to sit alone and mind her own business. She is also extremely sweet and rarely disturbs the other children. Seeing Jamariya constantly exhibit resilience and strength inspires me to rise above whatever life throws at me. She helps me see that I don’t have to be a victim to my circumstances. 

Jamariya’s life is just one encouraging story in the midst of around 100 kids we serve throughout the year at the Bethlehem Center. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at the Beth, it’s that this place will change your perspective of the world. Being around staff who are so passionate about bettering the lives of their students shows me that there is always a better or more creative way to get through to a child. Working with kids who rise above what life throws at them taught me about resilience, how to fight for equity, and how to be more outspoken about the injustices occurring in the world. 

At the end of the day, the truth is that this place isn’t always pretty. Being a part of a family means that you get the good, bad, and ugly. The bad and the ugly come in fits of crying when a kid has a bad day at school or is acting out physically because of a problem. However, the good makes it all worth it when you see the joy in a child after being told that he or she is Star Student of the Month, how much Christmas shopping money he or she acquired because of good behavior, or when a child tells you that the Beth is his or her favorite place to be. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything, and I’m so excited to see how the Beth continues to grow in the future!

Grace Rains

Grace is a senior at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and plans to graduated with a degree in social work. In the future she plans to attend graduate school to pursue her master's degree in social work and later work for a non - profit with child advocacy or ACEs early intervention. In her spare time Grace loves to hang with family and friends.

Posted by The Beth

Read to Lead Highlight:

December 13th, 2018

 Read to Lead Academy Highlight: 

 Ms. Kiesha's Story

Being employed at the Bethlehem Center has allowed me 

to have a positive impact on the children that are enrolled

 in the Read to Lead program, which is something that I 

never knew I was capable of doing.
When I found out I would be working with the younger 

kids, I was kind of nervous because I’m not a teacher and

 certainly never considered myself to be one.  I am a

 single parent of three, and I grew up/live in the same 

neighborhood as the children who attend the program so I 

didn’t even see myself as role model.

The night before the program was set to begin, I 

wondered how I would be able to connect with the

 children. I was clueless. While on YouTube, I ran across 

an inspiring video from a Gap commercial which aired in

 2017. It was a clip of a third grade teacher, who taught

 her class a mantra titled “Push Through". It was about

 how to rise above and persevere through adversity. I 

watched the video repeatedly because I wanted my three

 kids to learn it. But then something happened. I realized 

that my connection would be that I am a parent and these 

students would become my kids too.

And when you are a parent, you always have your children's 

best interest at heart. This was something that they needed to 

hear. The program began, weeks passed, and the students 

learned  the mantra.

To see and hear them recite this mantra is… amazing! At the 

end of the mantra I usually say, “Well I don’t believe you 

because I can’t hear you” but yesterday, I didn’t say it. You 

know what happened? They asked me did I believe them. I 

jokingly said no and in the loudest voice ever, they repeated 

the mantra with the cutest facial expression, determined to

 prove to me that they can “Push Through”.

Rakiesha Michelle

Kiesha is an after-school teacher for the Bethlehem Center's Read to Lead Academy. She loves teaching the first grade class which includes her daughter, Taylor. Kiesha is currently a student at UTC and is working on a Criminal Justice degree. The Beth is blessed to have a dedicated and loving teacher like Keisha on our team!

Posted by The Beth | Topic: Community

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