The House Youth Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters welcome new executive director

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“It takes a very unique personality I think to be able to walk in to The House and get what we do, but even more so to be able to be a part of that and to serve what it is that we do.”

Rebecca Vander Vaart, activities coordinator at The House Youth Centre explained their new executive director is fitting their needs perfectly, and she along with program director Michelle Laframboise, are excited to get to know and work with her.

“Our management agreement and partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters is also very unique and something that I think a lot of people struggle to really grasp what that looks like, so Becky just really seems like the perfect fit for both organizations and the direction that we would like to go with The House,” said Vander Vaart.

Becky Parent is the official executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre. She said she started off many years ago by teaching in adult education. She said when she looked around at her adult students, she could see a lot of them were facing challenges and had had many negative experiences. She began to wonder what the root causes were that lead them to where they were.

“My background is in philosophy and education, but I had this burning curiosity around my adult students and why they found themselves in the circumstances they did,” said Parent. “That lead me to seeking some volunteer work. I sat on the board of the United Way and I approached the, then, executive director of Big Sisters for a job because I really wanted to have a front line experience working with kids and families and understanding those root causes and challenges that had lead so many of my adult students to some unhappy circumstances.”

Parent began as the county caseworker for Big Sisters, doing intakes and working the front lines with families and developed a group program as well. She explained she fell in love with the work Big Sisters did in regards to youth mentoring specifically and started to understand the power mentoring provided. She said she began to see how it could transform young people.

After Big Sisters amalgamated with Big Brothers, Parent went on to work with the multicultural council, which then lead her to work as a community developer for the Homeless Coalition, and then move on to work for Leadership Windsor-Essex, which take folks who are in leadership roles, such as bank managers and principals of high schools, and train them around community issues and get them active in the community.

During her time with Leadership Windsor-Essex, she actually brought people through The House Youth Centre.

 

Michelle Laframboise (left) and Rebecca Vander Vaart (right) stand with Becky Parent, the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre, last Friday.

Michelle Laframboise (left) and Rebecca Vander Vaart (right) stand with Becky Parent, the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre, last Friday.

“I knew about The House and knew that it was really cool and innovative, despite the fact that it had been around for 40 years,” said Parent. “It was outside of the box programming for youth. As much as there was structure, it had the feel of no structure and that would be unique to youth because adolescence are the hardest population to serve.”

The position of executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre was one Parent had coveted for years because she knew it would feel like returning to work she’d done for so long, but in a new role. She said The House has the same struggles Big Brothers Big Sisters does, in the sense that while they are widely known, they aren’t known well.

“I think there are misperceptions about what the programs are and what they aren’t, and I would like to hopefully bring my skills and my knowledge to help uncover that for the general wider public,” said Parent. “I would like to help Amherstburg to see the hidden gem they have here in The House and maybe reveal some of the success stories, have tours and having people come through and understand what we do here, would be something that I will be very much focusing on in the next year or two because to have the community embrace this program a little more than they do I think would be a fantastic goal for us, both financially and for volunteering, we need money and people, and any kinds of support.”

Laframboise and Vander Vaart are both very excited to be working with someone who is as passionate about the program at The House as they are, after all, that’s how they’ve been able to thrive for 45 years.

“We were incredibly excited,” said Laframboise. “We took to Becky when she was the interim director so we were secretly pulling for her to get the position because I think her education and her history is just so in line with what we do and what we’re hoping for the center because we obviously do good work and we’ve done it for over 40 years, and I think she’s going to help us and support us in opening up that much more to the community and helping our youth in ways that we never could before.”

Parent is aiming to spend at least one day a week at The House, working out of the building because, as she puts it, if you’re going to talk the talk, you also need to walk the walk and that is exactly what she intends on doing.

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