Success Story – Willie Jean Stokes

Ms. Willie Jean Stokes graduated from Benedict College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child and Family Development. While in college, she joined the Army Reserves and served for 8 years learning valuable skills that she still utilizes today. One important skill was never giving up on a goal. After graduating, Ms. Stokes began teaching at a private school in Columbia. During my 8 years of teaching, she taught kindergarten through second grade and really enjoyed teaching! But as researched the field of Early Intervention, she knew she had tapped into what she really LOVED! She began working as an Early Interventionist (EI) in 2007 and quickly became an EI supervisor by 2009. She worked as an Early Interventionist Supervisor for two different agencies before partnering with Laura to start About Play, an organization that provides family training and service coordination in various counties throughout South Carolina by utilizing the skills of early interventionists.

In 2017, she became a Professional Crisis Management (PCM) Instructor. She is proud to teach crisis prevention and behavioral strategies to the About Play staff in order to elevate the quality of the services provided to families. In 2019, she become a certified infant massage instructor. Obtaining this certification gave her the opportunity to learn different techniques to help babies feel nurtured and also help parents strengthen the bond between parent and child. Ms. Stokes finds her work very fulfilling knowing that she is able to teach parents how to help their baby feel relaxed, which provides the child with an optimal environment to grow and develop.

Her favorite quote from being a teacher to being an EI is:

“If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. But if you teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

Benedict College’s Influence

When I began my education at Benedict College, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I liked children and children liked me, so I decided to major in Early Childhood Education in the hopes of becoming a teacher. I later changed my major to Child and Family Development and learned more about how a child’s mind works, the behavior of children, and the different resources that are out there that could help the child and his/her overall development. While at Benedict, the professors were caring and challenged me to do what I did not want to do. It was then that I knew I wanted to learn more about child development. After graduating with a degree in Child and Family Development, I landed a job at a private school for 8 years teaching kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. I loved teaching but when I was introduced to Early Intervention in 2007, I was reacquainted with all the child development, psychology, and social work courses I took at Benedict College. I am still loving this field and wouldn’t change anything about my career trajectory. As an early interventionist, I have fun working with children through play, and the role this plays in a child’s overall development.

Advice to Current Students

The main advice I would give to a student is to attend class and actively participate because no one can take away your knowledge. As an alumnus of Benedict College with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Development, I encourage you to learn about what you can do with the major you are pursuing. Even though I changed my major during my junior year, I wasn’t quite sure what I could do with that degree.

Now that we have “Google” search engines and “Handshake” platforms, you are better equipped with resources to explore career options, jobs, and internship opportunities in your chosen field of study. I would also encourage you to reach out to different businesses and explore, shadow, or volunteer to determine the route you want to take. This will also help you gain additional knowledge and practical experience that would look great on your resume and provide real application experience to enhance your workplace skills.

As a managing partner/business owner, please know that not everyone is expected to give you a chance. Have confidence that your education at Benedict College means something, work hard, and prove to your employer, you are passionate about the field you have chosen. If you know that you do not like to work with children, please do not enter a field that is centered on children. This is why exploring various career options, searching for jobs, and volunteering are extremely important. It will help you eliminate options that do not serve you well. One last piece of advice I would like to share is once you have graduated, do not job hop. Job hopping is a red flag to a potential employer that you are not serious about working and as a result, remove you from their consideration.

“Life is not going to hand you anything, you must have the confidence to go and get what you want.” Best wishes!

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