For some, service is a place where they find themselves in their personal journey. For Herlecia Owens, service has felt like a calling. Owens has been the Site Director for the ACES site at PS 037 in Queens since 2018. She describes herself as a Southern Belle, being raised in Alabama but eventually making her home in Brooklyn, where she led a daycare center for nine years and worked in the public school system shortly after.
Owens first heard of New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) as she was completing her master’s degree in Education from Brooklyn College. Though she was initially interested in the role of a Group Leader, ACES staff noticed her skillsets would make her an effective supervisor for an entire site. Owens became a Site Director of PS 037Q and never looked back.
“I fell in love with the school because the students are the best,” she says fondly. “Just seeing the kids smiling and laughing makes me excited to come to work every day.”
Owens’s commitment to service to her community through education began at an early age, as her grandmother was a schoolteacher. “She really instilled in me the importance of education,” Owens recalls. “I want to do the same thing for our kids.”
Owens’s dedication to her community does not go unnoticed. Recently, her role has been elevated to Senior Site Director to oversee the special events of the ACES Afterschool program, where she has led successful Banned Book Week and Fall Festival events in the last month. For her, collaborating with her fellow ACES staff has been a highlight. “The staff are really invested in NYJTL’s message, and want our kids to succeed in life,” she says.
To those who know her, Owens is often called a “flower child” because of her keen ability to see life through “rose colored glasses”. Her positivity and resilience are at the forefront of her approach to life, grounded in the belief that there is always something to smile about amidst life’s greatest challenges. She brings this perspective to her work daily, urging her students to understand their full potential. “I want them to know they can do whatever they dream to do. You must crawl before you can run, and you can achieve your greatest goals if you have the courage to try.”