March 2023 Student Spotlight – Karen Simmons


When my children were 3-months and 2-years-old, I suddenly found myself in a situation where I needed a job and one that would allow flexible hours. I applied for a job at a non-profit youth serving agency where I began as a part-time secretary. Over the years, my children grew and became of age to participate in the programs at the agency. I eventually became a full-time employee and was able to go to school part-time to earn my Associate and Bachelor of Science Degrees. My career grew from secretary to program manager to director.

I’m motivated to work with children because I am currently working with a second generation of children who’s parents were participants in my program when they were children.  What a great honor. Also, I raised my three children at the agency. They learned how to swim, received mentors, participated in leadership programs, non-traditional sports and residential overnight camp, just to name a few.  I continue to work with children to impart my skills, talents, positive words of encouragement and to be the best role model possible for the children and their parents. My husband and I now have six adult children and ten grandchildren. Six of our grandchildren attend the agency summer program along with seventy-five other children.

Children are among the most engaging and most intriguing people you can work with. They have the same rights to culture as adults, but their circumstances create challenges that can only be met with determination, creativity and integrity.  I think it is the challenge that makes working with and for children incredibly rewarding.  The joy of working with young people is that every day is different.  You never know what to expect. Each young person is unique, they bring their own life experience, needs and expectations. They bring their belief that anything is possible and in the space where their creativity is explored and encouraged, there are no limits to what can be achieved. Each young person is on their own individual journey and where it will take them can’t be predicted.  Snack time is my favorite time of day to spend with the children. After being in class all day, the students who are registered in our after-school program are picked up from their classrooms and served a snack before academic and recreational activities. I get a chance to hear about their day, what they learned and any special interests or program ideas they may have.

The Director’s Certificate program with ChildCare Education Institute is the first program I participated in.  I learned so much from the content in this certification course and will use the quality material for professional development requirements in my career.  I would highly recommend CCEI to others.  It was a great experience especially working on the course content at my own pace.  The research-based material was organized and easy to follow.

I currently live in Milwaukee, WI.  This year marks 39 years of working in the youth serving field.  My next chapter is teaching scrap-booking to children, adults and special groups.  Besides hanging out with my retired husband as he tends to his gardening, I love making scrapbooks and following two of my favorite scrapbookers on YouTube.