(Image above from left: Area Director Debbie, husband Mark and children Matthew, Michael, and Faye at Matthew's graduation from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York in May 2016.)
Tell us some fun facts about yourself.
1. I speak French and lived in Paris twice and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
2. I have a law degree and once worked for a cool female New York City Judge and sat with her on the bench in the courtroom.
3. After being a stay-at-home mom for many years, I began a new career as a journalist, working my way up to becoming managing editor of a weekly newspaper and subsequently winning statewide awards in journalism.
Tell us what you do in your job as an Area Director.
As an Area Director, I work with the professional au pairs and host families to help create a smooth transition as they begin their relationship and then continue to assist everyone involved so that all are fulfilled and satisfied with the ultimate goal being a successful and rewarding placement for all parties.
What is unique about your city?
My area is very close to New York City so we have literally endless opportunities for anything anyone could desire. We have some of the best museums, theatre, parks, and restaurants in the world - and so much more!
What fun events do you do with your professional au pairs?
My professional au pairs and I have met at a "paint the plates" place (image below) and Starbucks but due to everyone's hectic schedules, their favorite activity seems to be coming to my house after 9 pm, after their children are asleep! We have ping-pong, foosball, air hockey, music, and games and often combine to hang out with other clusters too.
What types of courses can professional au pairs take in your area?
There are many colleges in our area so the professional au pairs can choose from English as a Second Language classes to any type of subject they would want. They can also take the travel classes, created especially for au pairs.
What advice do you have for host families to ensure a successful au pair year?
1. Realize the girls would like a family environment - that it is not just a job - and try to help them integrate into the family.
2. Be sensitive to the fact that these girls are very bright and special in the sense that they have chosen to go far away from their families and friends to live in a different culture speaking a foreign language. It is not easy to do that - they really took a big leap - so be patient as they adjust.
3. Ask them a lot of questions about their schools, families and friends and life in Germany - note the differences and similarities! It is very cool and a wonderful cultural exchange for everyone. Also, a conversation is what creates relationships and these questions will spark the conversations!
4. Be aware that these au pairs are professionals and had professional jobs in Germany so they need their space as adults.
Why do you love being an Area Director?
I love being an Area Director because I love young people and I love to help! It is like an extension of my job as a mom. I have two sons, Michael and Matthew who are 27 and 23 and a 17-year-old daughter, Faye, and they all have traveled and lived internationally so I am well-versed in dealing with the many issues that can arise with young adults - not only when they travel abroad but in general. I feel that I can be sensitive to the needs of the host family since I had people helping me with my children when they were young so I also understand that perspective.