DeKol Austin

Family Coordinator, Child Development and Family Center

DeKol Austin

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Chicago and I live in Sycamore, Illinois.

Where did you attend school? What degree(s) did you earn?
Northern Illinois University (transferred credits)
Rasmussen College (B.S. early childhood education leadership)

Describe your typical day—what do you do while at work?
As the family coordinator for the Child Development and Family Center, it is my responsibility to support the families enrolled in two of our programs: the Preschool for All-Expansion (PFA-E) and the CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents in School) programs. My support includes directing PFA-E families to resources available through our community partners that can assist them financially, medically, social-emotionally or with goods and services. I also create family goals with our participating CCAMPIS families for the school year. I help them accomplish their goals by offering direct student-parent support and referrals to university resources, monitoring their grades for compliance and connecting them to student-parent campus functions. 

What do you like about working at NIU?
What I enjoy most about working at NIU is the feeling of home I get each time I drive onto campus.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
The advice I would give a student currently attending NIU is to cherish every moment. Although courses may be stressful and adulting may not be what you had anticipated, take time each day to cherish where you are and how far you have come. 

What is your favorite campus event?
My favorite events on campus are women's basketball games. 

In what ways do you see your colleagues help foster student success?
I believe my colleagues help to foster student success by simply modeling professionalism. Many students may not have had the opportunity to experience healthy work environments where individuals enjoy what they do every day. My colleagues offer the idea that you can love what you do, which is a lesson not taught but witnessed.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory of NIU was the day that Coach McQuitter called me and offered me a scholarship to play basketball at NIU in 1994. Of course I said yes. I will always remember that phone call. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a juvenile attorney. That was one of the selling points to accepting the scholarship to NIU. I was very interested in the law school. I am not currently a lawyer. Giving birth to my son in my sophomore year at NIU changed that path. 

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), IAEYC (Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children) and NAFSCE (National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement). All three of these organizations are designed to offer members the opportunity to take part in training, workshops and engagements that enhance understanding and knowledge of young children and their parents/families. They specifically set the standard for high-quality care and education for this segment of the community. NAFSCE also focuses on engagement, involvement and inclusivity for professionals working within community services for children from birth to age 8. 

What community organizations are you involved in?
I am an advocate with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). I am a member of the DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) board. I am a Sycamore Music Booster (mom) and a member of the University Village Collaborative. I am also a member of the DeKalb County Collaborative for Young Children (DCCYC).

What do you do to relax or recharge?
To relax I like to write, craft (scrapbook), garden, hang with my almost-hubby, attend community events, volunteer (a lot) and soak up the last of mommy-hood with my almost 18-year-old. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
My favorite NIU Huskie story (so far) begins when I discovered the family coordinator position available on Indeed last year. I immediately knew I had to apply for it. This position was created just for me. As I said before, I earned a full scholarship to play women's basketball at NIU in 1994. I became pregnant, took a year off and returned to play ball in the fall of 1996. After returning, I competed two more years and then realized that raising my son on my scholarship stipend was more challenging than I had expected. I transferred three years of credits that I earned at NIU to Kishwaukee Community College because I was no longer able to afford a sitter and realized that I had to work (but I had come so far and wanted to finish—somewhere). I worked all day long and then strapped my boy in his seat on the back of my 10-speed bike and rode up Route 38 to take night classes three days a week at Kish. I didn't have a driver's license or car at that point. I graduated with my associate degree from Kish in 2000. I then took online classes for the next 16 years until I earned two B.S. degrees, one in early child care education studies and one in early child care education leadership. I plan to return in January 2023 to finish my master’s degree in early childhood education from NIU. So, when I read the job description for the family coordinator position and learned that one of my responsibilities would be offering support to ensure that NIU student-parents have access to childcare—the barrier that when removed opens so many doors—I knew this position was created for me, because of me. Forward, Together Forward.

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