By Ali Eaves, '11

Jennifer Lewis believes in trusting her instincts.

As a graduate of the class of 2009 with a major in leadership studies, she went home to Pittsburgh in May trusting that the right career opportunity would come along. She turned down job offers because they just didn't feel right.

"I knew the job I wanted," Lewis said. “I wanted to work with kids, for a nonprofit, at a place where I could use my leadership and conflict resolution skills. Finally, I saw the posting on SpiderConnect."

The posting advertised an opening for a daycare program leader at Sacred Heart Center, a nonprofit in downtown Richmond that focuses on community development.

"It was everything I was looking for," she said. "I put in my résumé through SpiderConnect and got a call the next morning. It just clicked."

Lewis not only gets to work with children, but she gets to play an integral role in the rebirth of an organization. About a year ago, the Sacred Heart Center’s board was dissolved and it lost its funding. Now, the center is rebuilding from the ground up.

"It’s exciting because we’re starting from scratch and building up the programs that the community members want,” she said. “It’s really interesting to see leadership growing organically and to see where my skills fit in with the needs of this blossoming organization. One of the goals here is to set up a conflict resolution program for teenagers, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to."

Lewis uses her conflict resolution skills in every day play with the children. If a child gets upset or gets into an argument, she tries to get him or her to take responsibility and talk it out instead of crying or going to a teacher. And it works. By the end of the summer, the children listened better, got along better and were more respectful of others.

If Lewis hadn’t listened to her instincts, she wouldn’t have ended up with such a fulfilling job.

"Sometimes you just have to go for it and trust that life’s going to take you where it’s supposed to take you," she said. “I get paid to play with kids. And I get to help out at this center that’s going to make a difference in people’s lives. It feels good to come home and know you’ve really connected with someone."