16-KellyLewinBeing the Child Care Director at the Rye Y is my dream job. The Rye Y has been a part of my life for years. My three boys were enrolled in camp here, took swimming lessons and went to teen nights.

Becoming involved with childcare was a natural progression for me. I was an at-home Mom until an opportunity came up to teach at my children’s nursery school. In 2000, I started at the Rye Y as Assistant Child Care Director. I loved my job but needed to move to Florida for family reasons.

My oldest son, now 29, has severe mental health issues. As my son struggled, so did our family. Mental illness affects the whole family. The funniest thing happened after we moved. I answered an ad in the paper that literally said “Do you have a child who has mental health issues?” The ad turned into a job with the school district and the start of my second career, advocating for children with mental health issues and helping families navigate the system.

I feel that my experience as a mother has helped me in the way I approach both children and parents. A child’s bad behavior is an indication of an unmet need and you have to meet those needs, in a non-judgmental way, to help children become successful. I believe because I can talk about my family’s struggle, parents feel they can open up to me and as a result I learn more about the needs of their child.

When I moved back to New York a few years ago, I set a goal for myself to return to the Rye YMCA in some capacity. I applied for a job as a summer counselor, then took a position in the Kindertime and ASA programs. I left the YMCA last year to pursue a teaching assistant job in the residential treatment program Green Chimneys, a school and home to children with severe mental health issues. However, I continued to work in the afterschool program.

Soon after I began the teaching assistant position, an opportunity to apply for the Childcare Director here at the Y became available. I was so happy when I received the news that I had been chosen for the position. I had obtained the goal I set out to achieve and can honestly say that it feels like coming home.