Career profile: Cheryl Coulson, Recreation Supervisor – Bartlett Campus


Degree/s: BA in psychology
School/s: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Hometown: Ursa, Illinois
Hobbies: Rugby, boating, hanging out with my friends, playing with my dog
Personal goal: Complete my master’s in Physical Education
You may not know about Cheryl: I am captain of the Memphis Women’s Rugby Team.
Fact: I have my motorcycle license and would love to own a Harley one day!
Pet peeve: When people say “I can’t” or “I won’t” do something. What they should be saying is “I will do my best!”
A success at work is: When a resident realizes that he or she is in control of his or her own behavior and that he or she does not have to react to his or her peers’ negative behavior.

Why did you choose to work at Youth Villages?
I knew that I wanted to work with disadvantaged youth, but I had no idea how or where. A teacher in one of my classes started talking about Youth Villages and stated they were at a career fair that day. I went and talked to the recruiter and decided to move to Memphis!

What positions have you held?
Recreation Intern, senior overnight teacher counselor and senior recreation specialist.

What do you love about working in recreation?
I love being able to work with all of the different groups of kids on the campus. In recreation, we organize therapeutic exercise programs for the kids to teach them about sharing, goal setting, teamwork, communication, sportsmanship and so much more. I get to know all the residents on our campus through recreation therapy.

What does a typical day in your current position look like?
I start recreation therapy classes at 8 o’clock in the morning and continue with rec therapy classes until school is out at 2:30. Then, I work with those youth who are at risk of obesity. We came up with a weight-loss program specifically for these kids. I work with each of these residents twice a week for 30 minutes.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in your first year at Youth Villages and how did you overcome them?
I really struggled with how angry the children were and how misplaced their anger was. I didn’t understand why they would take their anger out on me when I was trying to help them. It took a lot of trial and error before I finally realized the best way for me to communicate with the residents to find out early when a resident was angry and how to talk them through those times of anger.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is considering working for Youth Villages?

Working with this population is truly a learning experience. It takes time to really fall into your way of doing things, but once you figure out the best way for you to communicate and work with the kids it is very rewarding. You also have to learn quickly not to take all of the children’s anger personally and to not take their problems home with you.

What has been the most rewarding experience so far at Youth Villages?

Having a break through with a resident on a daily basis is rewarding to me. I love talking to the kids about control. They often let their peers take control. It’s very rewarding when children learn that no matter what anyone else is doing, they can still control themselves. Also, it’s great when they realize and accept that they do not have control over their peers’ behavior – only over their own.

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