CAREER: STUDENT & RESIDENTIAL LIFE
Name: Stacey Janine Pierre-Louis
College & major: St. John’s University, Sports Management
Past jobs: Summer Camp Counselor, Basketball Camp Counselor, Summer Camp Director, Summer Residential Dean, Resident Assistant, Program Associate, Houseparent, Basketball Coach, Community Service Coordinator, Step Team Coach, Assistant Dean of Student Life
Current occupation: Residential Lead, Christina Seix Academy
How did you get involved in education, particularly student life? As you can see, almost all of my past job experiences as far back as high school included working with students in some capacity. After graduating college, I began to work at the Women’s Sports Foundation in Long Island. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting girls and women in sports and physical activity. As part of my work there, I had the opportunity to award grants to organizations that were offering exceptional programs to young girls. It was amazing to see and hear the excitement when I announced they were awarded a grant, but found myself wishing that I could work in these programs we were acknowledging. I missed being hands-on and working with kids. Once I recognized this, I began to think about in what way would I enjoy interacting with kids again, and I entertained the idea of possibly working in an independent boarding school. I graduated from The Lawrenceville School, and it had such a profound impact on my life, I was interested in finding a way to engage in that kind of community once again, but now as a member of the faculty.
Did your college major influence your career field at all? I majored in Sports Management, which is a degree that encompasses the business of sports. There are many areas and careers that one could do based off of my degree and being involved in education as an athletic director/administrator is one of them. All in all, my degree did not explicitly lead me to my career in education, though some of the courses I took have helped with my line of work. For example, the Psychology of Coaching has come in handy 🙂
What do you love most about being a ‘Residential Lead’ at a boarding school? What I love most about being a Residential Lead at Christina Seix Academy is that I have been afforded the opportunity to help create a residential program for 4th – 8th graders at such a unique school in this country. Living on campus and being part of a school community in such an intimate way, I believe, is an experience that everyone should have at some point in their education. The lessons learned, the friendships made, the independence that is gained, is not only beneficial, but adds to the holistic growth, development and education of a student. Not only am I part of helping bring the vision of a boarding school to life, I also currently work on the front lines and live with six third grade boys in a small pilot program and have done so for the past two years. Interacting with these students on a daily basis, helping them grow and being in such a close partnership with their parents, has been rewarding. We are all part of one community and team focused on helping these students and their families reach their full potential.
What is your day-to-day like? Every day is different and no one day ever looks the same! On Wednesdays and Fridays my day begins at 6:45 AM. I wake up my six boarding students and get them ready for school. By 7:55 AM they walk over to the Academic Building for class. Every day, 8 AM – 12:30 PM is considered my personal time. I am able to run any errands and tend to any of my personal household routines, etc. I often end up using this time for creating lesson plans, curriculums and to prep residential programming for the evening. From 12:30 PM – 3:00 PM you can find me attending meetings with faculty and staff across every department. This year, I also assisted in our admissions process and I am part of a team that will begin to create our Middle School Technology program and curriculum. Once 3:00 PM arrives, I begin to prep for any classes or sports I may be teaching for the co-curricular block which our 1st – 3rd graders participate in. This is an opportunity to expose our students to various sports and disciplines and see what interests may generate from this exposure. This year I have taught soccer, coding, Lego Story Starter (a literacy skills development class that incorporates the construction of Legos to help tell a story), art and basketball. At 5:15 PM, the residential program officially begins. I assist students with their reading and math activities. By 6:00 PM we are eating dinner and by 6:50 PM we engage in what we call the Residential Programming Block. During this time students are able to engage in activities varying from sports to coding to engineering to drumming. By 7:50 PM, we return to the cottage, where the students live on campus, and we do our contributions and begin our nighttime routines. Contributions are chores, but we wanted to name it something positive and we wanted our students to understand that by keeping the space they live in clean, they are contributing to the community they live in. I oversee them as they complete their contributions then make sure all boys get showered, brush their teeth, call home, have their uniforms ready for the next day and then tuck them into bed. Two nights out of the week, I am “on duty” overnight, which means if there are any emergencies in the middle of the night, they would wake me up so I could assist them. This includes if they feel sick, had a bad dream, etc.
Do you feel women are underrepresented in your field? What obstacles do women face who choose this career path, if any? In general, education is not a field where I feel women are underrepresented, though I know this is not a statement that can be applied to all disciplines. However, I do believe that women of color, working in independent schools are underrepresented. For four years I worked at an independent school where I was the sole black person, man or woman, on our faculty. For four years I carried the responsibility of being a role model, confidant, and supporter for the students of color. This can be a daunting position to be in if you find yourself constantly having to fight for matters that support the black student community on campus by yourself. As diversity increases in independent schools, it is important schools embrace the change, and adapt and adjust to the needs of their student population. Adding more diverse students to your community can’t only be about the numbers. You need to provide a faculty and environment that also celebrates who they are, with people who look and sound like them and can relate to them. I would say this is a huge obstacle in the independent school world, but I also know there are schools who are up to the challenge and are being thoughtful and progressive in creating diverse communities on their campus.
What advice would you give to girls considering a similar career path? This is such an interesting question to me because there is no major you can take that specifically guides you to work in residential life. Working in residential life on any level (elementary school to college) is a unique experience, that requires a unique mindset. Naturally, understanding student life and the importance of building, creating, and sustaining a diverse community is key. I also think it is very important to understand that while working in residential life, your work day can look very different from your peers that have a normal 9 to 5 job. You work at all sorts of hours during the day and at night and that is something one must embrace. My biggest advice of all is, if you try residential life, and you realize it does not fit your lifestyle, it is okay to say that it does not work for you. Often times I have seen people become unhappy because of changes in their lives that no longer make working in a residential life a viable option for them. Rather than admit it and transition into a new career path, they hold on, become unhappy, and it shows in their work production and in their engagement with the school community. It is okay, and actually very healthy, to understand when something is no longer working for you, and you need to find a new path. There are many people who spend their lifetime working in residential life and there are some who work in residential life for a few years and they grow out of it. Nothing is wrong with that.
What would you wear to a job interview? For a job interview, I would wear a pants suit, with a nice blouse or collared shirt underneath my suit jacket, and a nice pair of low heeled pumps or flats.
Any favorite websites particular to your field (or ones that inspire you in every day life?) This is a tough one to answer because more often than not I find myself on many different websites every day. On Facebook, I am part of a group called Black Educators Rock, and this group has faculty of color from across the country that post all sorts of great information, articles and videos about teaching. I frequent the information posted there often which come from many different sites. I also frequent Pinterest that have great ideas ranging from theme decorations for a class to different and exciting activities to do with your students.
Looking back, what general life advice would you give to your former high-school self? General life advice I would give to my former high school self is to think big and to step out of my comfort zone even more than I did. Transferring from a public school in Brooklyn, New York to The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey was a huge culture shock in many ways. I was able to take advantage of amazing opportunities, but at times I think I could have been more daring. For example, I only applied to colleges in the Northeast. If I could do it again, I would apply to universities all around the world!
Any other relevant info or words of wisdom? Take chances, travel the world and immerse yourself in learning about other people and cultures. Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. Lastly, take the time and put in the work to grow and maintain relationships with your loved ones and friends. Having a support system in life is a blessing. Relationships of any kind take love and work, and it is important to put energy and care into them.
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