At The New Century School, positive attitudes matter. When you walk into the school building, Funke Sholola makes sure to greet you with a warm smile before efficiently handling the business you arrived to take care of, whether that’s picking up a student, making a special campus visit, turning in a form, or meeting with a staff of faculty member.
Taking over from Hannah Brown, who is now at the helm of After Care and Summer Camp programs, Ms. Sholola is TNCS’s new Front Desk maven. She comes from Gaithersburg, MD, although her family is originally from Nigeria, her parents having emigrated here in their young adulthood. Ms. Sholola’s full name is Olufunke, which is Nigerian for “given by god to be taken care of.” Her name suits her—she radiates calm and contentment (though by means complacency, as we’re soon to learn).
Road to TNCS
Ms. Sholola is a very recent graduate (May 2019) of the University of Maryland, where she majored in criminology and criminal justice. She focused on the social rather than the law enforcement aspect of criminal justice, finding that economic disparity plays a large role in why people might commit crime. So, how did she wind up in Baltimore at TNCS, you ask? The route is actually pretty straightforward.
She currently lives with an older sister in Timonium because Montgomery County was not practical in terms of cost of living and commuting to first school and now work. She has another older sister who is a researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
“What brought me here is that I do have a background of working with kids; I am certified as a teacher,” she explains. She obtained this certification in 2012 after taking a 3-year child development program for ages 0 to 14 years in high school. “It gave me an opportunity to figure out what I want to do and whether I really wanted to go into education. I got insight into what it takes to become certified, especially getting CPR and first aid certified, which some child care providers don’t have.” She enjoys working with younger age groups because not only are they still open and friendly, but she also gets to observe their milestone achievements.
When she saw that TNCS was hiring, Ms. Sholola researched the school and was immediately drawn to two aspects in particular: the language component and the diversity of the school community. “I noticed that we have people from multiple countries and they speak in different languages, and I like we are giving children this head start. I took Spanish for 3 years in high school, but it wasn’t habitual, and I wish I had taken it more seriously. Being able to speak another language is such an important skill to have,” said Ms. Sholola. Another TNCS characteristic she appreciates is the small classroom size. “I learned early on that I’m easily distracted,” she said. As with many if not most students, movement and sounds made by other classmates, in particular, could disrupt her work. When other students in class are not focused on their work, this effect is amplified. She says she was able to make better progress in college classes that had smaller class sizes.
Student of Life
So far, Ms. Sholola feels quite at home. “I like it here,” she said enthusiastically. “Because I’m a student of life, I like to learn new things and challenge myself. I’m happy to be starting to put faces with names. And, what I learned when I was a restaurant hostess in college is that if I pick up the phone and smile, it actually makes my voice sound warmer. That’s coming in handy. Also, everyone is so kind and welcoming as well as willing to assist and answer questions,” she said.
Ms. Sholola has lots of future goals, both personally and professionally. On the personal side, she says she wants to learn her parents Nigerian languages. She also hopes to travel to Nigeria this December, not having been since she was a small child in 2004. Another personal goal she has is to pursue a Master’s Degree perhaps in business. She is looking into a part-time program at the University of Baltimore.
As for work goals, she says, “My one goal for the job is to be familiar with everything to help things run smoothly.and also just being of service to the people who are here—being a welcoming face and interacting with them.” She is still shaping her long-term, professional goals:
Yes I majored in criminology and criminal justice, but I don’t really see myself doing that long term. I noticed during my internships and that family life didn’t work out well for women in the field. Either they were still single, or they waited too long to have children. I want a happy balance between my personal life and work. I don’t want to be the person who puts work first all the time and then find myself with nothing to show for it at the end other than a career. I want to come home to children.
In the meantime, she gets her fill of cuteness from TNCS preschoolers and on up. For final thoughts, she says, “I’m here, say hello when you see me. Please bear with me when I ask questions because I’m still learning.”
And that’s a very good thing, Ms. Sholola! Welcome to TNCS!