Dear Friends of NETwork,
When I first met Juanita, she was an energetic young girl in first grade, with several siblings who also came to NETwork. After years of being involved at NETwork, Juanita Johnson is now in high school and serves as one of our StreetLeaders. A few days ago, we sat down after Kids Club to talk about her experiences at NETwork. I think you’ll enjoy hearing what she shared.
Juanita’s earliest memories of NETwork are of “playing a lot with the leaders and kids, having a good time, and being surrounded by positive people all the time. I’d never come to something like that before.” In Kids Club, she had opportunities to “get closer to God, and make a lot of posi- tive friends. I was able to just be myself at NETwork.” From a young age, Juanita also dreamed of someday being a StreetLeader.
Now serving in the role she once dreamt about, Juanita notes that the best part is “being around the kids and forming relationships with them, giving advice, and being a positive role model. With kids, what they see - that’s how they act - so being a role model and a good influence is important.” Juanita’s work ethic is impressive, and she takes her job as a StreetLeader seriously. She genuinely cares about each child, and we’ve seen her confidence level grow as she’s become more involved
in teaching and mentoring students. She adds,“Before I came here, I didn’t know much about Jesus, but now that I’m older, I’m teaching other kids about God. You have to know what you teach.”
A few months ago Juanita’s family faced very difficult circumstances. Juanita reflects,“Along with some of my close friends, Miss Denise has been part of my support system, and she has told me to keep my head up and not give up. She’s someone that I look up to because she’s strong spiritually.” Juanita’s been able to support other students in ways similar to how she’s felt support. After listening to one young girl share about how she’d been traumatized by domestic abuse, Juanita reassured the girl that “it’s not her fault that she’s going through these things,” and she took time to pray for her. She’s “been impacted by the stories of kids” and has reassured many other students “that they’re not alone” in the midst of hardships.
Where is Juanita headed in life? “I didn’t have an idea about what I wanted to do. But because I come to work every day and enjoy working with the kids and helping and teaching them, it’s made me think,‘Maybe this is what I want to do, because I enjoy it so much.’” Along with Denise, Juanita recently spent a career-exploration day at Thaddeus Stevens, the school she attended as a child. The teachers embraced the opportunity to have her back in the classroom. They recounted memories of her good work, and her return visit made her parents proud. Now, because of these experiences, Juanita wants to pursue a degree in education, in hopes of someday teaching kids.
Juanita talks and laughs often with other StreetLeaders, but she reveals there’s a profound depth to these friendships: “My relationship with other StreetLeaders has made me want to grow closer to God. NETwork is a good place to work. Not only will you learn to work with children, but you’ll also learn more about yourself and your relationship with God will grow stronger.” NETwork has truly become a second family to Juanita, a community of faith, and a place to explore her personal sense of mission and call. What a powerful testimony of God at work here!
Thank you for making this ministry possible!