With the re-launch of FLiP, it seems only natural that we also re-launch of one of our most popular series, Meet-A-FLiP. This series is a string of posts interviewing others like us (and you) in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector willing to share their valuable, insightful and often unique experiences with the FLiP community.
I recently reached out to longtime FLiP Jessica Jarahian who is currently working at Domus [domuskids.org], a comprehensive youth development nonprofit organization located in Stamford, CT. As long as I’ve known her, Jessica has worked with kids and young adults; I am always struck by both her passion and her dedication to every single one of the relationships she develops and maintains.
FLiP: When we first met, you were a youth minister running a huge program in Bronxville, NY. You then moved to Stamford, CT to join buildOn and very recently started a position at Domus – all youth-centric. Tell us about the path you’ve been on to get to where you are now.
Jessica: I’ve had some incredible opportunities. I’m sure most of those in nonprofit-social-service can admit to taking whatever position was available when they graduated college, wide-eyed and ready to change the world. I actually started at a children’s program in a domestic violence shelter – intense and crisis based but very eye opening. It was emotionally exhausting and looking back, I have to admit I wasn’t ready for it. But for my own benefit, it did help shatter the ideas ingrained by “textbook” social work and prepared me for the real world.
My time as a youth minister really gave me a chance to focus on the needs of youth – developmentally and emotionally. There was something about the age group, and I felt that they needed somewhere safe and consistent to go.
I than moved to buildOn, where I was given a close and much more personal look into the nonprofit sector, while still allowing me to shape my approach with youth across all economic and cultural divides.
And now, I’m at Domus. It’s a unique organization whose offerings really fit my passion and make me feel like I’m doing the work I always imagined myself doing – and best of all, I’m loving it!
FLiP: What exactly do you do there?
Jessica: I’m a Family Advocate at Stamford Academy, a nonprofit charter school opened by Domus in 2004 to serve high school students who have struggled in traditional public schools. There is great pride in the fact that we serve both the academic and social/emotional needs of each and every student and their families.
FLiP: So Domus runs Stamford Academy?
Jessica: Domus actually has three larger sectors that house programs: community, education and residential. They have 3 schools, 2 residential homes and multiple after school programs in their schools and community center. It’s a busy place that bases all work on the following vision: No child shall be denied hope, love, or a fair chance in life.
FLiP: What drives your affinity toward working with young people?
Jessica: I feel like high school kids get a bad rap! Youth have awesome energy and potential. They think critically while still being true to their youth and hope for a better future – it’s inspiring.
FLiP: At Stamford Academy, what is a typical day for you?
Jessica: Ha! Impossible. One day is never the same as the next.
Some mornings are scheduled for court visits to support our youth and families through legal matters, afternoons can include back-to-back meetings to advise students on how to communicate with teachers and administration, and evenings might include meetings to support parent/family/community successes, or offsite home visits to help foster relationships with concerned parents – get the point?
The incredible part about Stamford Academy and Domus as a whole is that they not only serve the student, but the family and the community at large. In order to truly set our students up for success, all of these factors need to be supported as well.
FLiP: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Jessica: Always a tough question. I suppose helping others in one way or another. As for now, I’m happy here and hope to be here for a while.
FLiP: Are you going to the FLiP Launch Mixer on Thursday?
Jessica: I hope so! No promises since I’m in the great state of Connecticut and have cheerleading practice. I’m the coach and we have a big game to get ready for on Saturday!
FLiP: Well, dust off that Twitter account of yours, I’ll be live-tweeting (@networkflip).
Since 1972, Domus has helped thousands of our region’s most vulnerable youth and their families experience success. The love, structure, and support we provide at our charter schools, residential programs, and community programs enable our kids and families to reach their full potential.
Learn more about Domus at domuskids.org
Stamford Academy is the second charter school opened by Domus and Stamford’s second charter school which opened in 2004 for students in grades nine through twelve who struggled in traditional school environments.
The students who enter Stamford Academy do so primarily because they have been unsuccessful in their prior educational environments.