Some experts warn people who work with at-risk youth not to “take the job home with them.” Glen Lane said he thinks those experts could not be more wrong.
Lane, Our Club coordinator and youth center manager in Jacksonville, works with 30 children between the ages of 6 and 18 who might be considered “at-risk,” though he said he does not like to make that distinction because, in his opinion, all kids are at risk in some way.
“All I ever heard for years was, ‘Don’t take the job home; don’t make it personal. Keep it separated,’” Lane said. “I bought into it, and it was wrong. It couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Instead, Lane said, he tries to make his job personal by investing in and being attentive to the kids he works with, even if it means answering a phone call while he is at home watching a game.
Lane said Our Club is an “after-school program with a twist.” The doors do not close once school is out for the summer, and Lane even takes the children to summer camp and on other trips in the summer. In July, seven Our Club participants will travel to Washington, D.C., and Lane said he is excited for them to have those kinds of opportunities.
There are three main components to Our Club: academics, fitness and community service. The Jacksonville Our Club was established on Sept. 1, 1999, and Dana Rozenski, who serves as the Jacksonville recreation program supervisor, ran the program for the first year before Lane got the job in 2000.
Lane said he works to become a confidante to Our Club participants while supporting their parents, which is sometimes a fine line to walk. Sometimes, though, talking with parents about uncomfortable situations opens up another way to help a family.
One example occurred several years ago when two brothers in Our Club had some personal-hygiene problems.
“That is difficult to talk to parents about,” Lane said. “I went and talked to the mom. It was then that I found out that they had no water, and mom came out and said she had a problem spending money on drugs, and she needed help.”
Lane found a place where the mother could get help, and the family was able to get clean — both from drugs and in their hygiene.
“Sometimes Our Club — the program itself — may not be the answer, but we try to connect them with those right answers,” Lane said.
Growing up, Lane was one of 10 siblings. He had seven sisters and two brothers. When he was young, his oldest sister died, and then his big brother — who Lane said was his best friend — died a little less than a year later.
“There was a lot of grief,” Lane said. “Little did I know that all of that would come into play doing this job because we have had kids here who have lost family members. I know how tough that can be.”
Lane has worked for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation since March 1998. He had previously been in manufacturing and hurt his back, resulting in surgery and a full year of recovery. After that, it was hard for him to find a job.
“Once you say you’ve had back surgery, people don’t want to touch you,” he said.
While he was job hunting, Lane spent time playing basketball with his two children. People in the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department noticed how he related to his children, and Lane was offered a part-time job at the Martin Street Youth Center.
Two years later, Lane applied for the position of Our Club coordinator and youth center manager. He was honest about his desire for training on the administration side of things, and he was given the job. Cathy Brand hired and mentored Lane, and he said Brand was integral in helping him learn his way around the office side of the job.
“She gave me a chance,” he said. “She believed in me when nobody else did. I’m still indebted to her.”
Two years after he was hired, Pulaski County Youth Services — the organization that funds Our Club — presented Lane with a certificate of appreciation for his hard work and dedication to the program.
“That’s when it began to click,” he said. “That’s when I thought, ‘Maybe I found a niche.’”
Despite finding his niche with Our Club and the youth center, Lane said it took a while to admit how much he enjoyed working with kids, but a conference where football player Keith Jackson spoke flipped a switch for Lane.
“He said that if you’re passionate about something, you can’t hide it,” Lane said. “If you’re passionate about something and you can hide it, why do you try to hide it?”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.