TaKarra Wilson takes after her dad and uncles. They’re tough but they all have big hearts. That might be why they’re so good at being residential counselors.
TaKarra has worked for Highfields as a residential counselor for about two years. She spends her days with the residents, offering them support and behavioral counseling when they need it and supervising their day-to-day routine.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids,” she said.
Her dad, Reggie, worked for Highfields for 13 years. He was a residential counselor, a team leader, a substitute teacher and worked with the Youth Attention Program at the Onondaga Campus. His brothers, Ronnie and Rodney, worked right alongside him.
“Our mom was always taking in kids from the community when I was young, so it just comes naturally to me and my brothers,” Reggie said. “My friends and other kids in the neighborhood called my mom, ‘mom.’ Our door was always open to anyone. It’s just how we were raised.”
When the brothers worked at Highfields in the ’90s, TaKarra and her cousins frequently visited the residential campus and even made friends with some of the residents. She said seeing her dad and
uncles working with so much passion really made an impact on her.
“They always seemed to have fun because they genuinely enjoyed their jobs,” TaKarra said.
Ronnie said caring for others is simply a Wilson family trait.
“It’s a bonding thing for us and I think TaKarra really likes that,” he said. “She likes building relationships with the kids.”
Just as TaKarra grew up knowing her dad and uncles loved their jobs, her father and uncles know she has the right qualities to excel as a residential counselor at Highfields.
“I knew she would be great at that,” Reggie said. “She’s always been a nurturer.”
TaKarra said she thinks her family’s ability to recognize when people make mistakes, to be caring and to be honest all help them to be great counselors.
“We’re not perfect,” she admitted. “That makes it easier to do the job, because we get it.”
Highfields’ counselors teach the residents lessons and skills to develop better communication and independent living skills. Reggie says he was even able to apply the lessons and skills to his own life, making him a better communicator.
“I learned a lot about myself in that job,” he said. “I learned how to deal with problems I might not have dealt with before.”
He said while he was working at Highfields, one boy got into trouble, but his parents weren’t there for him. But Reggie supported him. He encouraged him to go to Lansing Community College. From there, the boy went on to Arizona State University. He now has his own family and a good life in Arizona.
“I knew if I didn’t turn my back on him, he would be OK,” explained Reggie. “He just needed someone to believe in him.”
Rodney and Ronnie also had times they gave emotional support to kids who needed it.
“That’s why you get into that line of work,” Rodney explained. “You like to see the kids’ progress. You like to see them achieve their goals.”
Growing up and watching her family work, Takarra knows firsthand the importance of making strong connections with the residents.
“My favorite part of the day is interacting with the kids and building relationships,” she said. “It’s rewarding.”