Maia Gibbons ’14 is a Goucher Graduate with degrees in both Peace Studies and Spanish originally from Sterling, MA. Gibbons now works with the Youth Empowered Society (YES) at the Drop-In Center in Baltimore City. She talked with The Quindecim about her Goucher experience, her career, and her hopes for the future.
Q: Where did you study abroad? How was your experience?
A: Argentina. Incredible, I can’t wait to go back.
Q: What exactly is your job title and what is a general description of your duties?
A: I work at Youth Empowered Society (YES) Drop-In Center – a center that provides direct services as well as advocacy opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness in Baltimore. I am the Training, Education, and Advocacy and Workforce Development coordinator for the drop-in center. My position is an AmeriCorps VISTA position which began in July 2014 and will go until July 2015. As the Training Education and Advocacy Coordinator I am helping to design a curriculum that will educate service workers such as police officers and social work students on the best practices for interfacing with homeless youth. YES is all about peer leadership and so once the curriculum is designed, the trainings will be facilitated by youth who come to the center. Part of my role is to support and train youth on how to be effective peer advocates and leaders in the community. As the workforce development coordinator I help YES create and sustain partnerships with employers, employment training, and education programs that will help our youth find and keep jobs.
Q: What is a typical day like?
A: YES is open for drop-in from 3-7 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and from 11:30-1:30 on Wednesdays. During drop-in hours I normally staff one of the zones, meaning I help out in the dining area where youth can get meals, or the front desk where youth check-in, or the back room where we host a variety of activities. Behind the scenes I make a lot of phone calls, do a lot of research, and send a lot of emails. The staff has a check-in everyday with longer meetings on Wednesday and Friday. Our staff runs off of consensus which means that we have a lateral rather than hierarchical decision making process. Even as a new staff member I weigh in on every decision that the organization makes and my opinions are given as much weight as those of the director. That has been one of the most exciting parts of this job.
Q: As a student, where did you see yourself working? Did you expect a career in this field?
A: I actually had originally accepted a job working at a community center in Maine around the end of April of my senior year. However, the more I talked to friends about the position the more I realized something about the position wasn’t sitting right. One day I happened to run into a very dear friend and Goucher Alum, Michael Jefferson, and talked to him about the doubts I was having and he suggested that I apply for the AmeriCorps position at YES that he was getting ready to leave. It was such incredibly crazy luck that I ran into him when I did and decided to apply! I feel so incredibly fulfilled in my work at YES and after only two months I can tell you that I’ve learned an immense amount about myself and about the field in which I am working. I really couldn’t have pictured the first year out of post-grad in a better position for myself than this one. I can’t say that I ever pictured working specifically with the homeless population but I did envision doing work in the non-profit sector.
Q: In what ways did the Goucher perspective influence you? Specifically, how did your education prepare you for your career?
A: I was heavily influenced by my Peace Studies education. In Peace Studies we learn that social change begins with taking a deep look at the self and requires the ability to personally adapt and transform in the context of the system in which you are working. I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do had I not been challenged to explore myself as a leader and change maker, and observe
how I fit into new systems.
Q: How was the job search? Did you encounter any notable experiences or challenges?
A: The job search can be a real blow to the ego because it often involves much more rejection than acceptance but it really does all work out. Of all my friends that graduated in May everyone seems to be in a really good place.
Q: Has your career changed your outlook on life?
A: I continue to change and grow as a person everyday.
Q: Any advice for students? This can apply both to those who are beginning their academic careers and those who will be entering the job force soon.
A: You just have to keep your head up, be humble, and know that it all works out the way it’s supposed to. And TRUST YOUR GUT – that’s what led me to being so happy in the job I have now.
For more information on YES visit yesdropincenter.org.