This article is part one of a two-part series.

A few weeks ago, I joined almost 50 other parents in representing my occupation at the middle school Career Fair. Tentatively, we waited to be escorted — myself, along with the other parents — to our assigned rooms. I introduce myself to a college administrator, an illustrator, and a game designer. I even hear there is an FBI agent among us! Both the little kid and the cop show watcher in me are all a-tingly to hear about that one!

Pushing Past the Self-Doubt

I’m nervous, as I’m relatively new to my work as a Professional Youth Coach. Don’t get me wrong, I know I do my job well, but sometimes those little voices tell me I won’t be taken seriously because I don’t have a college degree, or that I don’t have 20 years experience at my age. Or, my personal favorite, I need more letters tacked on to the end of my name. And sometimes, I even witness the prejudices in others that can quickly reinforce my fears if I allow them to (which I typically do not). Maybe it is the corporate *adult* atmosphere or the air so thick with *accomplishment* or just being back inside a school, but my pubescent insecurities blink in and out like a neon sign on the fritz.

Then, the young lady (8th-grade student) assigned to escort me to my room comes over and introduces herself. She’s very sweet and chats with me all of the ways to my scheduled location. Next, we stay there for a bit, and I ask her how she likes being in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). (Consequently, AVID is a fantastic school program that teaches students about time-management, interpersonal skills, goal-setting, etc. If you don’t know much about it, check it out.) Then, I ask her what she’s learned about herself so far and what she feels her strengths are (see, that’s the coach in me coming out). As a joke, I ask her if she has to stay there and babysit me to make sure I don’t steal any Sharpies, and she just laughs and says, “No. I just enjoy talking to you.”

WHAT?! *Poof* All of those nerves and silly voices in my head just disappear.

In just a few words, this lovely young lady reminds me of why I do what I do! I talk to kids. I ask them questions about who they are, and then, I REALLY listen. By listening, I mean hearing what they are telling me without judgment, without agenda and with an intuitive reach for what’s they’re not saying, and possibly not wholly understanding by their young minds just yet. This girl reminds me that I’m right where I am supposed to be! These kids are JUST who I need to talk to today!

Then, the bell rang for the first group of kids. That’s when everything changed.

(To Be Continued … )