READING, PA- Smiling faces awaited Joceyln Charles when she arrived for work on a recent afternoon at the Olivet Boys & Girls Clubs’ Ricketts Center in Pottstown.

Charles was treated to a polite greeting from one of those faces, 11-year-old Jibrel Pratt of Pottstown.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” Jibrel asked Charles, who was recently promoted to the director of the after-school and summer youth club.

“If you want, you can help clean up,” Charles responded.

Charles, 30, of Pottstown, said it’s kids like Jibrel that she has met in a decadelong career that make her job working with children so special.

“You fall in love with the personalities,” Charles said. “I like working with children because you can make a difference in their lives.”

Charles first realized she loved working with children when she was baby-sitting in high school.

She worked as a counselor for a Montgomery County child care agency as well as the Olivet’s club while she was going to college at Temple University and Montgomery County Community College.

Charles then transferred to Penn State University, where she graduated in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology.

After graduation, Charles worked at Abraxas Academy, a juvenile treatment center in New Morgan that provided court-ordered housing for juvenile offenders.

Working as a counselor, Charles said, she learned that if you treat the kids with respect they will respect you.

She counseled youths serving time for serious offenses.

Charles said that while working at Abraxus, she realized she wanted to help younger children.

“I felt I could reach out to (them),” she said during a recent interview at the center at 640 Beech St.

Charles said she ran into a former colleague whom she worked with at Olivet’s who told her there were openings.

“I just could not pull myself away from the place,” she said. “I am personally interested in each of the kids. I get to see the personal side of the kids, and I get hugs.”

She returned to the club in the summer of 2012 and has worked there since.

“No matter how my day is going, when I see the kids, they make me laugh,” Charles said. “Coming in here, you can’t help but be lighthearted.”

During the school week, about 25 children go to the center, while 50 a day attend during summer.

Charles said that her goal as the director of the club is to increase attendance and build relationships with the community.

The club opened in 2009 in the Richard J. Ricketts Sr. Community Center to provide youngsters with after-school assistance.

The club provides sports, help with homework, recreational activities and snacks.

Charles said she expects to reach out to the community in the spring to recruit volunteers. She is planning an open house with music and food for families to learn about the programs.

While Charles said she had visions of working in New York, she was attached to her hometown.

“I didn’t plan on staying here,” she said. “But Pottstown just pulled me in. It has a family feel to it. I can’t leave. I want to see Pottstown thrive.”

Hettie Webb, a food coordinator at Olivet’s, said Charles taught her a lot about working with youngsters.

“I am so proud of her,” Webb said of Charles’ promotion to director. “Together, we love being in Pottstown.”

Courtesy of: