Name: Samuel Pabi
Title: Assistant Supervisor
Campus: Brookside ITU
Previous Position: Youth Development Professional (YDP)
Year Started: 2016
When did you become the assistant supervisor?
I was appointed in February.
How are you liking the transition?
It’s kind of back and forth. Sometimes you forget that you are a supervisor. Sometimes you go back and feel that you’re still a YDP. But it’s been good. I have a lot of support from my supervisors and other colleagues. I think I’m getting there.
How long you were you a YDP?
I think it was 2 years.
So you must have liked it then. How did you learn about the assistant supervisor position?
I started working in November 2016. And in April 2017, I had an injury. I broke my shoulder and then had to be on light duty in the supervisors’ office. I got a taste of receiving phone calls, making phone calls to parents, agencies. And then trying to help them type in reports, and doing a lot of the little things to give them a little bit of space to monitor the floors. It gave me a feel of what they do.
Before you came to Hillcrest, did you have a background in this sort of field?
I was a teacher back home.
Ghana. I had a little over 20 years of being a teacher at all levels. Elementary up to high school. I spent about 13 to 14 years teaching high school. I was teaching social studies. I worked with kids all my life. I don’t know any other thing apart from working with kids.
What are the happiest or most rewarding moments for you working at Hillcrest?
Can I say when I was made Employee of the Year?
You can totally say that, yeah!
I didn’t go to the [morning All Staff] meeting where Employees of the Year were first announced. I went to the [late afternoon] one because I work the academic shift in the morning.
And when I had my break, I checked my phone and the congratulations were coming. Congratulations for what? So I texted one of the guys who sent the message, “Congratulations for what?” And he said, “You’re employee of the year.” Wow! And I kept quiet. That was the height…it’s not the money, it’s the recognition.
What’s the hardest part about being either an assistant supervisor or YDP? Maybe it’s the same.
The hardest part is when my supervisors always challenge me. They always put me in difficult dorms, in difficult places. And then at some point I felt like, “Why me?” So it went on and on and on and at some point I realized that I was probably the one that could do it. So I accepted it. But at some point I felt like I was being taxed too much. Sometimes it gets you stressed out.
Did you ever ask about it? Or did you eventually start to find a rhythm?
I casually would talk about it. I would come in and there was staff around the board. And I’d be like “Whhyy?” So I started thinking “Hey, you got this.” I’m the type who doesn’t like complaining too much about tasks. Just do it. If I don’t succeed, fine. If I succeed, it’s a plus.
Who has been the most influential person in your work life? It could be someone in Hillcrest, someone out of Hillcrest.
I could say two people. I mean it was wonderful working with Peter Lopenzina (former program director at Brookside). He was a wonderful person. He gives all the support you need. That’s one side of it.
And when I first got here, I was the first international in so many years. With cultural differences and all that. It was like I saw the whole world staring at me. But I had one other Ghanian who lives here. He’s not international, but he’s been working here like 11 years. He’s also Peter. Peter Siah-Ndede. Two Peters in my life. He was like a mentor to me, like a father. All the time he kept encouraging me. Even when I was stressed out. He was like “Let’s keep going. That’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years.” He was always there for me. He’s still here.
What surprised you most working for Hillcrest?
The kids. These are challenged kids. Sometimes with their behavior you think they don’t like you. You think they don’t care about you. You think it’s all about them. And then I had my injury and kids were like acting out. And then anytime I was on light duty, I popped over there and the kids were like, “Saaamm, when are you coming back?!”
And then it was Recognition Day 2017. And one kid was discharging. And she was like, “Mr. Sam, which shoulder did you injure?” And I said, “This one” [gestures to left]. And she came over to the right side and then gave me a side hug. And patted my shoulder and told me, “You’ll be fine.” That was like wow! These kids. And since that day, my perception and everything about this job, the kids, changed entirely.
I see these kids are challenged and they don’t say these things to you because they enjoy saying it. It’s because of the situation they find themselves. I don’t take it personal. They are good people on the inside.
Do you have any advice for people going through the application and/or interview process?
My advice to them is that this work is a learning experience. Every day is a learning experience. You don’t become an expert. Some people get on this job, after two or three months, the kids like them and they think they are experts. And then something will happen and they get so frustrated. So for me, my advice to new employees is that they should take their time and learn. Even those who are here forever, they’re still learning. I’ve been here almost 3 years. I’m still learning.
I imagine that every time a new student comes in, you have to start over.
You gotta start allll over. Get to know her. Learn how to approach her. How to work with her. A new student comes in and makes you [feel] as if you’ve never worked before, or you’ve never had training before.
There was one student that I told her, “You’re doing this because you are new and you are in the transition. Trust me. When you start making progress, you will love the place. You will have a lot of fun. And you’ll live well.” And she was like, “Whatever.”
And then she started…the pool was open, she started getting pool lessons, and she was like, “Mr. Sam, I’m having a lot of fun, I went on a trip, I did this…” and I gave her a look and said, “I told you.” So it makes me more confident. It doesn’t unsettle me. I know when they get here, the initial stages is like everything is terrible, but when they settle in and learn the program rules, the benefits, the fun aspects, there is a visual calm.
What sort of person do you think succeeds working with the kids here?
You need to be patient. That’s what you need. If you don’t have the right temperament, you cannot succeed. You need to accept the fact that this is what you want to do. If you came in for the money, you will go in a minute.
But you need to accept first this is the type of job I’m doing. It goes with this type of risk. You have to have a very big heart. All that. If you don’t have that, these things that I am talking about, trust me, you won’t last a day. You won’t last a day. But you will see people here who have worked here 30 years. There are [people] who have been here for 30 years. And I ask myself, “How do they do it?” I said to myself, “If someone has done it for 30 years, I can also do it.” But if you don’t have it, you can never succeed. You will leave.
If you need the money, probably go work in some store. Here it’s a life that we live. I see that it’s a life that we live.
Do you have any favorite stories of the kids?
This student who was having a lot of issues, crisis. I was put on her dorm to keep her safe. And then she made lots of attempts to run out of the dorm, and I was always there to catch her. She said to me, “Can you get me water from the bathroom?” I said, “So-and-so will get you water.” And a staff fetches water from the bathroom for her. She thought that by asking me to leave to go get water from the bathroom, that she would run. But I was a step ahead of her. So we went to bring the water for her and I was sitting in her doorway. And she opened up the bottle and just poured everything on me. She was getting frustrated. So she wanted me out of the way. So she poured everything on me. And you know what I did?
What did you do?
I said, “Okay, thank you for the shower.”
She was like, “Don’t you ever get mad?”
I was like, “I didn’t have a shower this morning. I was thinking I was getting greasy and stuff. And you gave me a shower.” She went into her room and lied down and that was it. She never acted out [with me] again. I wouldn’t have thought again about it.
But you know for Employee of the Year, you go to the dinner and students write nice things about you. And that is exactly the story that student wrote about me. She said, “Instead of getting mad, he said, ‘Thank you for the shower.’” And you know, I was so happy. Everybody was clapping. It made me feel so good. Everybody was like, “Wow!”
You’ve got to take time, allow them to calm down, and set an example.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I would say that I enjoy my job. I’m still learning to be an assistant supervisor. My thing is to move up every day, be in more challenging situations, and let’s see what comes out of it.
****This interview has been lightly edited and condensed*******
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