She chats matter-of-factly, and indeed proudly about her job as School Age Manager at the YMCA of South Collier (Marco Y).
She talks about 14 consecutive years of setting schedules and overseeing afterschool programs for hundreds of area children, and about her delight in watching them make tangible academic and social progress.
However, Charlene Rose struggles to maintain her composure when the subject of at-risk kids comes up, bearing in mind that the Y’s outreach programs cater for many economically disadvantaged East Naples families and their kids.
“I am those kids. I’ve been there,” a momentarily tearful Rose says. “Dysfunction. Lower incomes. I know what it’s like.”
The upside, after all those years and a decade-and-a-half with the Y, is that Rose truly identifies with all “her” developing kids, and says her job is simply her mission in life.
“I live in East Naples,” she said. “I know all the parents and kids from the schools—Manatee Elementary and Parkside.
“Once when we were delivering food, one family member said it was great that we came out here. I said, ‘No, I live here,’ and they said, ‘Ah, you’re one of us.’
“It was really personal for me.”
In her experience, Rose says the difference between success and failure for most at-risk kids is resilience—and the presence of at least one positive role model in their world. And also a safe haven, which ironically can often be a school itself.
“A lot of kids are happy being out of school—at the moment during these disruptive COVID-19 times— but for some of them, school is their safe place,” Rose said. “There’s no domestic screaming or fighting.
“That’s the number one reason I stay with the Y. It’s an international brand, and it has a purpose, a meaning. I loved being at school…”
Rose works closely with last week’s Y profile subject, Stephanie Pepper, saying that their functions intertwine as they cater for the various age groups.
They hire camp directors and counselors, pre-plan summer camps, and make logistical decisions that usually fly well with their CEO, Cindy Love-Abounader.
“She trusts us,” Rose says. “She knows we’re here for the right reasons, so she puts a lot of faith in us. If we’re not sure, we always check in with Cindy.”
Love-Abounader said Charlene has a heart of gold, and this shows as she works with the children. “She cares about helping the Y organization focus on our mission and ensuring that we are serving our community even during times when we have to pivot quickly.
”I’ve worked with Charlene for over 15 years and her talents continue to grow. Recently, she has taken on the membership supervisory position as well. She is sharp and a quick study.”
The devastating COVID-19 curveball necessitated some radical rethinking that included current “Enrichment Camp” youngsters—mainly from Marco—occupying their own tables that were in turn placed apart as Rose explained.
Summer camps are also in the cards, except that field trips will not occur.
“We’re going to adapt, and make it as normal as possible for the kids,” Rose says. “We’ll be having different room areas for groups, and our CEO has even ordered some big tents in case extra space is needed.”
Referring back to her vital function of overseeing the East Naples—as well as Everglades City—outreach programs, Rose has said that she’s particularly proud of achieving a 100% zero fault rating from the Collier County School District and the Department of Children and Families. Both organizations closely monitor the programs and their progress.
All the planning and effort involved in being School Age Manager may be daunting, but Rose sums up the end goal quite simply. “It’s really about the children learning and having fun at the same time.”
For more on the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 239-394-9622. Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco, on Facebook at marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.