We caught up with Lamont Jackson and chatted about his exciting role in our youth's development.
KHCC: Please introduce yourself and give a little background about yourself, including your role at KHCC.
LJ: My name is Lamont Jackson. I'm the director of the After School and Summer Camp programs here at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. I've been working in youth development for 28 years and managing after school programs and camps for 17 years. What else can I say? It's a lot to cover in 28 years, but I'm very passionate. I've been at KHCC since 2008. I left for a year, then they asked me to come back and run their program. Previously I was here in a different capacity, I was working part time and running the sports programs, activities and the gym. Then when the director was leaving she mentioned my name and that I had experience running programs. I came in for an interview and the rest is history.
"I LIKE TO WORK WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE DEDICATED AND PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR WORK."
KHCC: How did you initially get involved with KHCC?
LJ: I had been working at a group home that does intervention work and I kind of missed prevention work. During my days off I would think about getting back into prevention work, back into recreation. So I searched out programs and agencies around the Bronx. I found KHCC, which I had never heard of before. I had never even heard of Kingsbridge Terrace in the Bronx, and I grew up and lived in the Bronx.
I came in and interviewed with the director. He'd had a staff member who had just left because she was struggling, it was just too tough for her. I came in and amazed them with the turnaround of the group and the behavior of the kids. Experience counts! It helps when you have a certain set of skills.
However, I always say in this field that I like to work with people who are dedicated and passionate about their work. If they lack a skill, that's fine, because I can teach you a skill, but I can't teach you dedication, commitment or passion. My philosophy is a little different. I'm not always after people with a lot of experience. I like to work with diamonds in the rough, just as long as they have a passion for what they are doing.
KHCC: What is your most meaningful or favorite memory involving KHCC?
LJ: My most meaningful memory involves helping a kid who was struggling in the program. We had to have several meetings about him. We met with his mom and the team would meet to come up with strategies of how we could help this youngster. We really thought we might have to say "You know this just isn't a good fit". But we kept working with him and working with him and eventually this kid turned it around.
"THEY ARE PARTNERS IN THE CHANGE THAT THEY WANT TO SEE IN THEIR LIVES."
We have our Positive Behavior Support System, a reward system where we recognize the participation and good behavior of the kids. His school then heard about it, because they would complain to his parent about him at school. His mom was like "Oh, they were able to work with him at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, you should talk to the staff and figure out what it is that they do and if we can do it here at school".
So, I met with the principal and told her about our Positive Behavior Support System. She asked if she could use it at the school, so we instituted it and it helped tremendously. It's been four years now and he's in our middle school program, which is about leadership. Now he's doing community service and being a leader. I'm very proud of that.
I'm grateful that I have staff who get it, that we don't get to cherry pick the kids. We take the good and we take those who have some challenges, and we will work with them. That's the business we're in. If you think of it like an emergency room, the doctor doesn't get to pick and choose who is coming in, whether it's a gunshot wound or broken arm, someone shows up at the door, and you have an open door policy, you decide what the issue is and that's what we are trained for, so we are able to help you.
"WHEN THERE ARE CHALLENGES YOU CAN SEE THEM AS CHALLENGES OR YOU CAN SEE THEM AS OPPORTUNITIES."
KHCC: What do you think makes KHCC special?
LJ: It's the people who work here and the families that we serve that make KHCC special. It's a community center using the settlement house model. It's not about people doing things for you, it's about you doing things for yourself, or rather a community doing things for themselves. Our role is to bring in resources, or show them where resources are. It's actually the people who live in this community who work here. It's not a group of people who come from outside the community to do everything for them. They're doing it. They are partners in the change that they want to see in their lives. That is what's special and unique about KHCC.
KHCC: What are you excited for as you and KHCC go forward?
LJ: I am excited for the possibilities that lie ahead for KHCC, another 40 years for excellence and service. I think our future looks very bright. When there are challenges you can see them as challenges or you can see them as opportunities. I think we are positioned to move forward and take the agency up, with the help of the community, with the help of partners and with the help of our talented and gifted staff. I think KHCC is positioned for a very, very bright future.
"HEY KHCC, THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE, THEY'RE UNIQUE AND THEY'RE THE PEOPLE YOU WANT TO GO TO."
KHCC: Anything else you would like to add about KHCC?
LJ: I think KHCC is the hidden gem of the Bronx. We do so many things like Special Needs programming or our Changing Futures program for child sexual abuse survivors. I don't think that there are many agencies who do this or do it like we do. I think we really, really, really go above and beyond to meet the needs of this community. We're moving into a phase now where people hear KHCC and they know exactly what services they can come to us for. Where people say in conversation "Hey KHCC, those people over there, they're unique and they're the people you want to go to." Were using all the means available to get the word out about KHCC, so that we can continue building partners and supporters of our organization.
We are so grateful for Lamont's passion for KHCC! He and countless other staff continue to make KHCC a "home away from home" for so many Bronx residents. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule, Lamont.
Author: Katharine Krchnavy | Development Intern