A Passion for Education with Children’s Book Author Richelle Hudson
By Valerie Kelly
Richelle Hudson has been with our agency for over three years and is releasing her first children’s book, Let’s Embark, in the coming months. “Let’s Embark, Leave Your Mark” is an inspiring journey through what it takes to make your dreams come to life. We recently visited the center and the kids are so excited about the release of her book.
“A large group of them caught me red-handed around Christmas time looking at an email from my illustrator, so I shared several pages with them, and they are so excited for this book too!”
More to come on that! During our interview, we got to learn more about Richelle and her passion for childhood education.
How long have you been with Catalyst? Have you had any other roles/titles with us?
I’ve been with Catalyst for 3 years and am currently a Center Leader at Catalyst Kids – Valley View. I started as a Master Teacher at Rocklin and spent a lot of time there and then worked at Antelope, getting the programming back on track. There were so many changes going on during that time.
Can you share an experience when you’ve seen a teacher or child’s life change at Catalyst?
For me, it’s very fluid and has changed over time. It’s seeing the positive influences on the children or seeing their attitudes change as they gain understanding and knowledge. They learn how to develop empathy. It’s the relationships that grow between children and staff, it’s continuous and fluid. It’s always nurturing the social-emotional needs of the kids. You notice the changes in their social-emotional development throughout the school year, especially when you have the same kids, you see the relationships change over time and the results of being a good coach and mentor. I’ve had the same kids for over 3 years, but we also partner with other centers, so we’re familiar with the kids there as well. Whenever I drop by the Antelope center, there are still several kids that I remember and interact with, even after 6 months. If you really put in that dedication to help children, they will come to you with open arms. They’re so happy to see you when you’ve had a positive impact.
Is there a particular Catalyst student or teacher who has inspired you?
There are several, I was really inspired by the first center manager who had a challenge early on and we partnered together. She was a great launchpad into a positive platform in terms of how we represented the agency and what kind of ambassador she was for the company, and she really had the best practices. Her beginning. The entire staff at Rocklin was amazing. I would like to give a special shoutout to Ms. Jenny, we partnered together for a year and a half, and it was really like peas and carrots. She was always so enthusiastic and had an excellent moral compass, she is so inspiring.
With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support Catalyst?
I think people should be very thorough when evaluating an after-school program and before school as well. Needs vary from family to family. Catalyst is incredibly unique; I’ve looked at a lot of programs up and down the west coast. I have family in Oregon, so I even looked there where they had very cutting-edge programs. I always come back to Catalyst and look at our programs, especially our afterschool programs where our hearts and soul are. For hours kids spend with us, families should be attentive to what the program offers their child and how they’re delivering it. Catalyst has been really great at replacing stuff that has been filtered out of our public school system like art.
“They really have the freedom to explore their own interests…singing, dancing, acting, whatever it may be, they’re able to do that here. We have a wonderful job of being assertive and engaged in that information and weaving it through our program. That makes it the kids’ program and that’s how the program is so successful, they are running it with their interests.”
Kids have great imaginations and just to brainstorm off of that are the ideas and curriculum for centuries. The school system can be very rigid and does not allow those opportunities for organic conversation. Catalyst provides opportunities for enrichment based on the information we gather from the children each year.
What do you wish people knew about the world of child care/camps / etc?
That it’s incredibly challenging for staff and frontline employees. They have a lot that they’re juggling in terms of different personalities, cultures, and backgrounds as well as experiences and expectations. They’re a lot going on. I think it’s important to understand the people who run childcare facilities, to get to know the culture and expectations. A lot of childcare agencies can be great or have a lot of fractures in certain areas. It’s especially important for parents to be informed and wise about the world of childcare and that it’s very subjective. What one organization might believe is developmentally appropriate might differ from what someone at another organization thinks about what they’re doing with their program. It’s so important to be thorough when it comes to the care of your children, especially in camps as those are all day and extended care. Anything with extended care is where parents really should be hypervigilant in terms of who is running the program and doing their research. Catalyst has a great record of accomplishment.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
I think that the contributions that I make are inspired by the children and those are fluid. Those happen throughout the year and I’m proud of all of them because those come from the kids. We’re able to make that come to life. Our group is theatrical and performance-based. Knowing how much they want to dance and sing, I ended up purchasing a vinyl backdrop stage for the dramatic play area as well as a microphone, stand, and movie clapboard. It happens all year round and I’m always proud of those. The kids are always throwing me ideas and I love making it happen for them. I’m immensely proud of the Rocklin staff that I worked with on the front lines at the very beginning of COVID. A lot of us hadn’t had time off since covid started, but everyone still maintained an incredibly positive attitude and persevered. Achieving that can be incredibly difficult. We might have had one day where we felt ourselves slipping and had to check ourselves. We knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault that we were in these challenging times. I think coming out of that with enthusiasm, hope, energy, and excitement for what the future holds is a wonderful thing and I’m proud of that. When you have a solid foundation and leadership that supports you, it gives you what you need to come together.
Is there a particular experience/memorable moment that stands out to you in your time at Catalyst?
Rocklin is known for having a drama club with their older kids. And this one was a sequel to another play and had been planning it for some time. It was the Friday we had to shut down due to COVID the following Monday. The kids had been spending their time writing the play, working out the backdrop, and constructing it. You just watched it come together for the entire school year. The kids were so creative with creating their scenes and writing the script. To see it all come together in the cafeteria that the admin let us use that night, we had a big family event, and it was such a huge success. The kids were amazing, they really brought it all out. There were 80 people there and it almost didn’t happen because of covid. After a year of hard work, to be able to have that happen right before everything shut down really stands out.