Civic Nebraska’s Community Learning Center at Omaha’s Lewis & Clark Middle School serves an energetic, vibrant, and diverse community of students. Since early 2018, Assistant Site Director LaMia Byrd has brought a consistent and creative presence to the CLC. At first, students might think the mom of three is strict, but in the end, they know she’s a compassionate caregiver and guide who is in their corner 110 percent. We caught up with LaMia on a recent weekday at Lewis & Clark to get to know her better.
For just about as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for working with kids. And I’ve always loved being around them. This was how it was even when I was younger – I gravitated toward work that involved kids. So, it makes sense that I’m here.
Middle school is tough. Lots of students don’t fully understand all of the changes they’re going through physically, mentally, developmentally. And then they’re trying to fit in, and all the pressures that come with that. They’re dealing with a lot of stuff. As I said, it’s not easy.
I try to remind them that at this time in their lives, their emotions feel really big, and so that has a big effect on everything. Their behavior, their relationships … all of it. It’s all related.
And then, at some point, I see the lightbulb go off. They may not always notice it at the time, but I do: They might get a look on their face, or they don’t react to something negative the way they once did. That’s very satisfying to me.
It’s also satisfying to see students’ progression from the beginning of the school year. There are some students who barely interact at first. They’re sitting by themselves when they start the program. We find ways to make them take part in whatever it is we’re doing. By the end of the year, they’re leading. It’s worth it once in a while to stop and realize, this is good. This is good.
We use kind words here. We don’t use negative words.
We have a great staff. I love that we come from all walks of life. With as many different students as we have, that makes us all relatable in some way! Through it all, though, we’re consistent in how we set rules and guidelines. We teach kids how to be upright citizens, and how upright citizens behave. It’s a standard.
Students know that we expect more of them. That we’re being our best selves. When we go out and about, “You are representing us – you’re not just representing you. You’re a part of us. So act accordingly.”
We also let them know that we care about them. Every day.
My word is all I have to present to people. My actions define my words. If I can’t hold true to my word, then I’m not really standing for anything. If I don’t, students are going to look at me like, “Sure. You’re just ‘do as I say but don’t do as I do.’” They are watching us. And they are looking to us as examples. It’s important for me to present my best self and for my word to be true – and most importantly, to follow through.
This is more than what I do. It’s who I am.