Linet Peña’s official title is Assistant Program Director/Learning to Work (LTW) Coordinator. But that doesn’t even begin to convey the enormity of Linet’s undertakings, the intensity of her responsibilities, and the impact she makes, every single day.
Linet is what’s known as a primary contact at a transfer high school, Flushing Young Adult Borough Center (YABC), a school for over-age and under-credited students who are at risk of dropping out or previously had done so. A primary contact is a caring and qualified individual whom students can count on for guidance and support.
We say at The Child Center that it’s never too early or too late to change the trajectory of a life. That saying is true only because of people like Linet. Read this Q&A with Linet to find out how she does it and why.
The Child Center of NY: Tell us about your journey to become Assistant Program Director/LTW Coordinator at Flushing YABC. Why this line of work, and why Flushing YABC?
Linet Peña: I have been with The Child Center of NY/Flushing YABC for a very long time, since 2011. I started as a part-time history and English tutor in my early 20s and had been promoted to educational coordinator and then advocate counselor. When the position for Assistant Director/LTW Coordinator became available, I knew that was the next step for me. The population at Flushing YABC won my heart over quite quickly. Our students often come to us feeling defeated, ignored, and lost since they are fifth-year high school students. Our scholars need more attention and support than others due to their struggles, be they economic, emotional, academic … however, that does not make them any less worthy. I found my passion in advocating for and helping those students who felt that no one was on their side. I chose this line of work because these young adults are our future: our future nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers, and professionals. Helping them hone in on their true potential and allowing them to see that their mistakes do not define them makes my job worthwhile.
Can you describe your current position? What is the main focus, and what’s your day-to-day like?
My current position is a mix of administration and running the Learning to Work (LTW) program. LTW is an internship program geared toward providing students with career development and internship experience. It also allows them to earn two additional elective credits, which helps them move closer to their goal of earning their high school diploma. No two days are the same. I recruit for the program three times a year, conduct the hiring process for all potential interns, and place them in their respective internship roles. On Mondays, I host my LTW seminar, where we review all things career related, from interview skills to benefits packages, retirement plans, how to handle conflict on the job, and much more. I invite guest speakers to meet with my students to show them a variety of perspectives and experiences. In the fall, I invited an NYPD Officer from the Community Affairs department to join our seminar. This guest speaker was able to help shine a more positive light on all the wonderful things they do, as well as have an honest and open conversation with my students. Program Director Jaimee Diehl put me in contact with Mr. Kenny from P.S. 24, and he taught us all how to tie a tie. That was a fun-filled class learning a very important life skill. I also plan events such as the Career Expo and help support our advocate counselors with their clubs, events, and day-to-day. I meet with parents to keep them involved in their child’s academic/internship life. I connect students to the right resources—college and career related, public assistance related, and more—and I am there for them, whatever they need.
My team and I are always thinking of new ways to incorporate fun and budget-friendly activities to keep our students engaged. It truly takes a village, and my team is the absolute best! They work tirelessly by my side and are the heart of the program. A big shout-out to Advocate Counselors Ms. Bharrat and Ms. Solano; Engagement Specialist Ms. Kahale; Tutor Ms. Probst; Ms. Diehl; and of course our DOE team that is with us in the trenches: Site Director Mr. Petty; Guidance Counselors Mr. Baglio, Ms. Crossman, and Ms. Hanson; Parent Coordinator Ms. Pichardo; School Aide Ms. Mullins; and all the teachers who motivate, educate, and guide our students every day. The dedication and passion everyone exhibits is what makes working here so incredible.
You had a big impact on Christopher! How did you feel when you read his story?
Reading Christopher’s story brought tears to my eyes. His story is one of struggle, hard work, and success. I often refer to him when running my seminar classes to show my students that anything is possible when you allow yourself to receive help and do your part. Working with Christopher was an absolute joy because he was honest about his challenges, admitted when he was wrong, and accepted my help and guidance. But most of all, he knew that he wanted better for himself and did everything in his power to achieve his goals. I am extremely proud of Christopher and know he will go far. On days when things get tough or disheartening, I think back to how far he’s come, and it gives me the strength to keep fighting for our students.
The work I do at The Child Center can be tough; it feels like a thankless job at times. But when just one student shares a positive experience or a kind word, it turns your whole day around. My favorite time of the year is when we inform the students that they are graduating. The way their eyes light up, sometimes they cry of happiness or run into your arms for a big hug. That is priceless. Or when a student comes back to visit, to update us on their current life happenings. I’ve had students come back in their military uniform, and that is a sight to see. If we can touch just one life, I feel that our job is done. Last year, we saw 113 students graduate, and that is what makes this work so rewarding. I am proud to say that I work with young adults who are taking control of their lives and doing their best to make a brighter future for themselves. At the end of the day, seeing them earn their diploma and start the rest of their lives with the biggest smile on their face is all our team strives for.