Success Stories

Natascha Carney plays a game
Natascha Carney plays a game called Sharks and Minnows with children at the YMCA of Douglas County as part of her job as a Teacher's Aid. - Photo: Lightflies

Natascha Carney has discovered her passion for teaching and helping children.

The 23-year-old works 20 hours per week at the YMCA of Douglas County as a teacher's aide. Natascha has a variety of job tasks, including organizing routines for the kids, helping with art projects, supervising children on the playground, and helping kids transition from one activity to another.

"Her unique talents are suited to childcare," said Nora Bing, former Family Services Director of the YMCA of Douglas County.

"Natascha helps keep the kids on task, and she is very good at keeping them focused."

Delia Vickers, a personal agent with Southern Oregon Regional Brokerage, said Natascha's job at the YMCA has done more than give her a regular paycheck. She said working has increased Natascha's self-confidence and independence.

"She went from living at home to living on her own with some supports," Delia said. "She is much more verbal now about what she wants and doesn't want in her plan (ISP). She just has so much more confidence and isn't as afraid to say what she wants."

Natascha started as a volunteer with the YMCA three years ago, and after eight months of volunteering she was offered a staff position. It is her first paid job. Ackley Counseling & Employment Services developed the job for ​Natascha.

Natascha Carney with her former supervisor Nora Bing
Natascha Carney (left) with her former supervisor Nora Bing at the YMCA of Douglas County. They are standing next to a flower they created together. Nora cut out the wood shape for the flower and Natascha created the colors with bottle caps. - Photo: Lightflies

"She tried some volunteering at different places," Delia said. "Then we went to her home and she had a new infant niece in the family and she couldn't stop talking about her niece. Her eyes would light up when she talked about the baby. It just clicked – she loves kids."

On a sunny afternoon, Natascha worked with a classroom full of children on an art project. Many of the children huddled around Natascha, waiting to see what new colors she would add to a giant tree.

"I like the hands-on stuff," Natascha said. "It never gets boring. The kids crack me up every day."

Natascha experiences Asperger syndrome. When she first started, Natascha would sometimes become anxious or overwhelmed with the larger classrooms. Her supervisor said they made adjustments.​

"I think anyone could easily get overwhelmed with a big number of kids so it wasn't hard to adjust," Nora said. "She is capable of the jobs required of her and the kids love her."

Natascha lives close to the YMCA in Roseburg and walks to work each day. She works five days per week. In addition to her job duties, Natascha has started working on continuing education classes offered to employees at the YMCA.

Now standing outside in the playground as she supervises the children, Natascha reflects on why her job is a perfect fit for her.

"When you work with kids, you need patience," she said. "You need to be caring and it helps if you are a child at heart. I love working here. I always am sad to see the kids go at the end of the day."

A slideshow of Natascha at work