Dr. Nicolette Rittenhouse-Young joined People’s Prep’s student support and mental health teams this year. In our latest Wolfpack Voices, Dr. Rittenhouse-Young discusses the importance of her team’s work during the pandemic and what it’s like to start a new job virtually.
Why did you choose to work in a school setting?
I really love the access I have to the students I work with. In a private practice, I would only get 45 minutes once a week but, in a school setting, I can see a student five days a week if needed. The impact you can make is so much stronger.
I also like the holistic approach of the school. You can impact so many elements of a student’s growth and development, and you have access to students who wouldn’t otherwise receive mental health services.
What do you most enjoy about your work at PPCS?
I really enjoyed the work I’ve done in previous schools, but the key observation I’ve made was that the staff I worked with did not always feel the same way. Many were burned out and exhausted, and they seemed to not enjoy working with a “difficult population” any longer.
What makes People’s Prep different from other places I’ve worked is the culture. I feel a lot of it is based on evidence based practice. People here are really passionate about doing what is best for the students and families we serve. It feels like a breath of fresh air to come to a place that is so committed to the mission.
I love how our staff assumes the best, even of students who aren’t always on their best behavior. I’ve worked in places where they were always trying to catch kids doing something bad. I think it’s really important to believe in a person; if you don’t set a high bar, they will never try to reach it. Right from the beginning, in summer professional development, we were discussing assuming the best and I was like, “Okay, I’m with my people here.”
What has it been like to come to PPCS in a new administrative level position and lead teams?
Everyone has been very welcoming, supportive, and patient of my learning curve, especially because we have been working virtually. I feel like I work best when I’m able to make connections with colleagues and kids and their families, and I haven’t been able to do that as well in the virtual world. I have to be mindful to not use that as an excuse, and the leadership team has been willing to invest time and help me grow into a leadership role. It has definitely been one of the strangest work-related experiences to start a new job virtually, but the team has made the best of it.
What work has your team been doing during the pandemic that you are most proud of?
I think our team has found we can be extremely flexible in giving students whatever they need to be successful with this huge transition into virtual learning. I’m really proud of the ways we’ve had to adjust in providing services and how we evaluate if we are doing a good job for our students.
I also think it’s great that, as a school, we are still so involved in our kids lives beyond graduation. Our thinking is not just about ensuring our students make it through high school, but that they thrive beyond that, which should really be every high school’s goal. That’s something that’s really special and especially important for the population that we serve.