For the past thirty years Paulette Fox has been the Executive Director of the oldest employment and training program in the United States- Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC). Based in New Britain, Paulette has spent the majority of her adult life preparing our youth for the world of work and to be good, voting citizens in their community, as well as, to give back whenever possible. In addition, Paulette is also the chairperson of the African-American Advisory Committee at the New Britain Museum of American Art. Finally, Paulette helps out at New Britain High School whenever she get a chance.
- Paulette, did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
It’s in my blood. I grew up in Stowe Village Housing Project with a great Dad and Mom. My father is my hero and all my life, he was always helping people and always had a way with youth and young adults. Everyone liked him! It wasn’t until his death, that my family and I realized all the lives he had touched in the project and all the people he helped, encouraged and befriended. My Mom was one of the first Paraprofessional to work in a program called Project Concern in West Hartford. She worked at the elementary and high school levels. She loved her work with children and teens and she always seemed so energized when she went to work and came home. This attitude of love and caring was a part of my life growing up. I always knew that I would have a job and career working with people and especially youth.
- Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path?
It all began with a program called Project Co-Op in Hartford where I grew up. I was a Youth Worker working with youth in a summer youth employment program that addressed life skills and work ethnics. I was responsible for 20 youth. Loved it! After graduating from college, I become a teacher and worked in most of the schools in Hartford. I was a day care teacher, head teacher, Assistant Director and Executive Director for Mt. Olive Day Programs in Hartford responsible for 450 children and youth, plus 150 staff people. I love the interaction with children, parents and staff. Finally, I become Executive Director of OIC New Britain and have loved every day of making a difference in the lives of children, youth, young adults, parents and staff. I am now seeing intergenerational families who I have had the pleasuring of working with.
* How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
Everyone experiences bumps in the road but it has been my support system that has helped me through. I have many role-models, mentors and positive people in my life. Connie Wilson Collins, Gerri Brown-Springer, Emma Pierce, Alton Brooks, my sister Zalika Shani, my wonderful first cousin T.K. Collins, my mother and of course my Dad. Connie taught me 30 years ago that we have a responsible to help someone and her phrase that I have adopted and it has become a part of my life is, “You are your brother’s keeper”. Hard work has always been one of my family values taught to me at an early age.
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
My father and mother, caring adults and having some great teachers who inspired and encouraged me to do my best and nothing less would do. Being raised in a family that always had high expectations and great values such as love, trust, honesty, self-worth, self- esteem and faith in God.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
In working with teens for the past 40 years, I believe they need a caring adults who holds them accountable for their actions, has expectations for them and make sure they are taught to believe they can do and accomplish anything but it will take Hard Work and Endurance.
- Paulette, what would you tell a teen who was struggling?
Never give up, believe that you can do and accomplish anything in life and know that I am here to help you in whatever ways I can. I would encourage them to also watch the movie the “Pursuit of Happiness” or my favorite “Forrest Gump”.
- What else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
I just want to continue making a difference in the lives of people, especially youth. I will always be involved in some type of community events that address the issues of youth and when I retire I just want to be able to paint, write my story and relax by the ocean, some place warm.
- Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
I believe that God gives us our destiny and it is up to us to follow that destiny and always try to impact at least one person in our lives as we take this journey called, “Life”.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
They can contact me at OIC New Britain (860) 224-7151
Thanks for your time Paulette and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
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