She is bubbly, personable, and passionate about building relationships with youth – these are the traits that Leilani Esteban, a Child and Youth Care grad from 2007, embodies as the Program Coordinator for Together in Elmwood/Parent Child Coalition, as well as the Community Coordinator for Elmwood Communities That Care.
And as a mother of five, Esteban is no stranger to dealing with children.
“When I entered the Child and Youth Care profession I was a single mother of four,” she says, “but I was an older adult returning to school as a single mother. And I was looking for a field where I could give back to the community.”
Before entering the Child and Youth Care program at Red River College, Esteban had another job – as a hairstylist. However, she soon realized that her true calling was working with youth.
“I found that I was good at building relationships with youth, so I wanted to take that and I wanted to build on that. I looked into the list of courses for RRC and I thought that Child and Youth Care was best suited to my skills and I guess what my qualities were, so I thought that was a perfect fit.”
For Esteban, her career choice and her family life have a symbiotic relationship.
“My children were growing up and I wanted to know more about how to keep them on the right path. My main goal was to kind of get all the resources I could to be the best possible parent I could and use those skills to build a career.”
Through the Child and Youth Care program, Esteban entered her first practicum experience.
“It was front line work, working with youth on the front line level,” she explains. “It was working with sexually exploited youth and through the program I learned how to build relationships and how to listen. The most important thing about any community work is building relationships. When you learn how to do that, you can do anything in the community as far as I’m concerned.”
After her first practicum, Esteban’s superiors took notice of her nurturing personality and her take-charge mindset, which led to many more opportunities to work with youth. In addition to being Program Coordinator and Community Coordinator, Esteban was also in charge of the Healthy Baby program, and she supervised the GOAL (Go Adult Learning) program.
Since graduating in 2007, Esteban has achieved many milestones.
“From my practicum, I got my first job at the Elmwood Community Resource Centre. After three months, I became the Resource and Development and Communications Officer. I was doing public relations for the Centre, putting together statistics, and building it into programming for the Centre. Six months after that, I became Program Coordinator. I was basically the right-hand of the executive director.”
Esteban credits the College’s Child and Youth Care program for preparing her for her future endeavours and successes.
“I think the biggest thing was the block in Child and Youth Care where I learned about writing proposals because that’s what I use in my profession. It took me to where I am right now.”
Now Esteban is passing on what she had learned to current Child and Youth Care students.
“I still see my teachers because we do practicum sites together. They come to me now! They put their students in my programs,” she beams.
Esteban also says that the program changed her life: “It was cathartic in the sense that it brought it altogether and made it made sense. It also taught me the structure, the process, because without process, you can’t get anywhere. It taught me the steps on how to build relationships … Child and Youth Care provided that theory and foundation for me. And the teachers were great. I could not have learned or done anything without them. They encouraged me a lot.”
Profile by Cindy Chan (first year, Creative Communications)