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Ellis enjoys working with children

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
Heather Ellis is only 22 years old, but she definitely knows where she is headed. Along the way, she and her coworkers are spending a lot of time with local kids.
Heather is the school age child care coordinator at the Brewton Area YMCA, which means that she is in charge of the after school and summer program geared to looking after school age children. She has been working at the Y for a little over three years, first as a camp counselor and then as assistant camp coordinator, before taking on her present position. Her charge is the kindergarten age group through the sixth grade. This after school and summer program is mostly for working parents who want their school age children to have supervised care when they are at work.
Kids are separated into groups according to their ages and given a snack when they come in after school. Then those who need to do homework are given that opportunity, while others play under supervision.
During the school year, there are nine workers, 10 including Ellis, who take on the job of keeping the children either having fun or getting their homework done. During the summer months that number changes to accommodate the extra children who enter the program. Some of the workers have been there more than one year, such at Ellis, but each one has to reapply for work at the beginning of the summer and again for the after school program.
Ellis' job has evolved to where she doesn't have as much "hands on" as she did as a counselor. Her job these days entail a lot of paper work with schedules, current enrollment and payroll, but she is still on site, available to her counselors for those times when they need her help.
The summer program is a little different from the after school program because the hours are so much longer. Children may come in as early as 7:30 a.m. and counselors are on hand until 6 p.m. That means there are lots of hours to fill with activities. The kids get to swim a two or three times a week and take field trips. They may go bowling, skating, or visiting the naval air museum or the Gulfarium. The weeks are theme oriented such as nature week where the kids collect leaves and explore the outdoors. The counselors are mostly teenagers or college students who are well trained in several training programs before the summer session begins. In fact one of the counselors is her own brother, Ryan.
Ellis was born in Brewton and attended school at W.S. Neal, graduating in 2001. She was in the band and a member of the honor society. She graduated number six in her class. She attended Jefferson Davis Community College for two years and then transferred to the University of West Florida where she is pursuing her goal of becoming a teacher. She has had that goal for several years.
She is a full-time student and will graduate from UWF next year and hopes to be able to do her student teaching in the local school system and perhaps even a teaching position.
She says she doesn't have a lot of free time with her work at the YMCA and attending school in Pensacola. She does enjoy photography and spends as much time doing that as she can.