Campus & Community

Pathway produces male role models for Greenacres youth

The teaching and child care professions are still predominantly occupied by women, but not if the men of the Greenacres Youth Programs have a say—especially those who are Palm Beach State College students and alumni.

Operated by the Community and Recreation Services Department of the City of Greenacres, the Greenacres Youth Programs annually serve upwards of 250 children and youth, ages 5-17, in age-appropriate afterschool programs and winter, spring and summer camps—all supervised by a better-than-average balance of male and female role models.

Ten of its 26 employees are men, making them 38% of the Greenacres Youth Programs staff. Yet according to 2018 figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, men comprise only 6% of child care workers, 2.4% of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 20.2% of elementary and middle school teachers.

PBSC videographer Julie Somera tapes an interview with Ben J. Dexter II, assistant youth program supervisor at Greenacres Youth Programs.

Greenacres Youth Programs has achieved much greater gender equity due, in part, to the influx of male employees who are the product of Palm Beach State College’s unique pathway to careers in child care and youth development. Six of the 10 men (as well as four women employees) have followed this pathway, which typically begins with the 40-Hour Introductory Child Care certificate that is required to work in the field by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Next, they may continue with the Flordia Department of Education School Age Professional Certificate (SAPC), which prepares students to work with children in a licensed afterschool program. Several have taken both the College Credit Certificate and Associate in Science degree in Human Services with a concentration in Youth Development. Some also have an Associate in Arts degree and others have transferred into PBSC’s Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management.

Youth leader helps a child
Jose Reyes, youth development leader at Greenacres Youth Programs

Recently the six men participated in a video produced by PBSC to highlight their success in this nontraditional career path. They are Michel Cuellar, youth development leader; Benjamin Jerome Dexter II, assistant youth program supervisor; Adam Mohammed, youth development leader; Jowie Mohammed, assistant director; Michael Morel, youth development assistant; and Jose Reyes, youth development leader.

Assistant director Jowie Mohammed was one of the first male students from PBSC to excel at Greenacres Youth Programs, starting as a part-time recreation aide 14 years ago. He was profiled in the College’s Contact magazine in 2017.

“Jowie exemplifies the success of the Palm Beach State pathway,” said Michele Thompson, who has been the director of the Community and Recreations Services Department for the City of Greenacres for 17 years. “He is truly a self-made man and has served in every position in the department, except for mine!” Thompson is also a PBSC adjunct professor and has served as the chair for the College’s Afterschool Business Partnership Council for more than six years.

Five of the six PBSC men, from left: Michel Cuellar, Adam Mohammed, Jowie Mohammed, Michael Morel and Jose Reyes. Ben Dexter is not shown.

Another part of the success equation is Prime Time Palm Beach County, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support for afterschool professionals. Dexter, Reyes, Adam Mohammed, Morel and Jowie Mohammed have received  Prime Time scholarships, which make it possible to graduate virtually debt-free.

Prime Time also honors professionals, and at their 2019 Afterschool Symposium, Morel and Adam Mohammed, whose “Cool Zone” middle school group has the highest attendance, were recognized for achieving a 4.94 out of 5 in their annual Quality Improvement System Assessment, which is the best score the Greenacres Youth Programs has ever received. In addition, Dexter was recognized for completing his A.S. degree in Human Services-Youth Development. He is currently pursuing the B.A.S. in Supervision and Management. Jowie Mohammed, who earned his B.A.S. in 2012, is the 2014 recipient of Prime Time’s Exceptional Achievement by an Afterschool Director award.

Dexter and Jowie Mohammed have also earned Certified Parks and Recreation Professional credentials. Mohammed holds the Advanced Level Directorial Credential, and Dexter earned the Level One Directorial Credential.

These PBSC men are not only rising through the ranks in this field, but they also love what they do. As the video shows, they are finding joy and fulfillment in working with children and youth.

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