Janet, or Ms. Janet as she’s best known as to participants, has worked at OST since the program's beginning – nearly 15 years ago. As a matter of fact, her son was the first student to be enrolled, and today, her grandson and granddaughter are participants.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Ms. Janet moved to Feltonville 30 years ago and has worked for the Philadelphia School District for 24. After her day working as a teacher’s assistant, she heads back to her neighborhood to assist the five and six year olds at OST.
“I like being with them and teaching them what I know. At five and six, they need a lot of help, so I like to help them do the things on their homework they need. That’s what I do, and that’s what I’ve been doing for a lot of years,” she said.
From living in the neighborhood, Ms. Janet often runs into participants and their families. “I go to the park and the kids call to me when they see me. They will point me out and say, “She helps me out with homework, Mom!”
“I know a lot of the parents from outside [of the program] … and they’ll ask me about it. Sometimes, they’re single moms and need help when at work. I’ll tell them it’s a good program for the kids. [It] helps a lot of kids and their parents. The kids learn a lot when in the program … they learn everything they learn in school.”
Every school year and summer, OST reaches its enrollment capacity. Often, parents will ask Ms. Janet if there are any spots available for their kids, and she tells them, “if anything opens, I’ll let you know.”
After talking to Ms. Janet, it quickly becomes clear that to her neighbors, she’s much more than an OST employee – she’s a trusted friend. “I’ll see a lot of kids in the street, and I’ll tell the parents, ‘Look, [they] can be in the program from 9 to 5. I stay with the kids until their parents come.’ They know they’re safe. We will always be watching them, they’re in good hands.”
“During the summer, I’m the first one here and the last one out. My kids are grown; my baby is 25, so I like to be at the school,” she said. “I like to help the neighborhood with anything they need. With anything, I’ll be there.”