Joy Ledbetter is proud to be the family advocate at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City — empowering families with the necessary resources for sustained growth.
"At the Boys & Girls Club, we're all about the kids. But as I like to say, families are members too," Ledbetter said. "It's a gem in the community because if the children are growing up to be responsible, caring individuals, then they're going to give back to the community that gave so much to them."
Ledbetter started her journey with the BGC 2 years ago under the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grant, which included a social worker position.
Ledbetter said her job is to provide the building blocks for families and let them choose how best to put them together.
Early in her career, Ledbetter realized she had a calling to help people in the service industry by empowering them to make healthy lifestyle choices.
For 10 years, Ledbetter worked for an organization based in Louisiana as a community outreach director that helped people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential.
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, she came to Jefferson City to take a job working with senior adults, which provided an opportunity for her to connect with the community where her parents lived.
Despite her experience with senior adults and disabled people, Ledbetter said she realized she has a passion for working with teenagers after she received her degree in social work from Lincoln University.
Ledbetter said the three greatest things about her job are the abilities to build relationships among BGC members and their families, to be a liaison for parents in their children's social and academic environments, and to offer opportunities for something Ledbetter calls "positive parenting pointers."
"It's about building a strong foundation with the families even after the kids leave in the evening," Ledbetter said. "The more opportunities there are for family engagement, the better off it's going to be for the whole community."
Due to the confidentiality of her job, Ledbetter serves as a partner for parents at BGC events that include various forms of positive parenting pointers. Some events include all family members, and others were for parents-only, which allowed them time to engage with one another.
"The best part about my job is not having to tell people what to do — because how do I know what's best? — but ask the questions to help," Ledbetter said. "Whether it's the 6-year-old or 16-year-old, or mom and dad, I ask them what they think is best and how I can help them make it happen. This allows them to take ownership, feeling the pride and success of the good things that come their way."
Even though Ledbetter is helping families work through their problems, her motivation to keep at it is dependent upon them learning from their mistakes and not being ashamed to reach out for help.
"There is nothing else more rejuvenating to me then when someone else realizes how strong they are, what a good decision they made or even the lesson they learned when they didn't make the best decision. You see them learning," Ledbetter said.
"This is a safe place, and I'm a safe person that you can mess up with."