Think about every job that is required in order to make a movie. You have the actors and the director, or the main people who are recognized for their work in the movie. Then, you have the people who play roles behind-the-scenes of the movie. This behind-the-scenes role is much like Pupil Personnel Workers in the education system. A Pupil Personnel Worker (PPW) is a professional trained in removing any barriers a student may have in order to achieve educational success.
Oakland Mills High School’s PPW is Jomo Fowlkes. Mr. Fowlkes wanted to be a PPW because it has, in his words, “everything that I liked to do and enjoy doing.” However, Mr. Fowlkes did not start out his career as a PPW.
Before becoming a PPW, Mr. Fowlkes was a former teacher. For twelve years, he taught at Talbott Springs Elementary School where he enjoyed working with children and families as a teacher. One day, a media specialist saw his work ethic and taught him about the PPW position. Getting into the position was a lengthy process because he thought he would always want to be in the classroom working with kids. Mr. Fowlkes said that it took him “maybe seven years to actually pursue the position after I knew about it.” Ultimately, he made the change because it let him continue to work with families and give students in need a platform academically. Since then, Mr. Fowlkes has been a PPW position for four years, but Oakland Mills is his first high school population. Mr. Fowlkes said he looked forward to “learning a lot and being a positive impact on Oakland Mills.”
As a PPW, Mr. Fowlkes helps students, former students, families, and even his fellow staff members with whatever they need. Mr. Fowlkes has multiple behind-the-scenes jobs such as monitoring the attendance of students, ensuring they are on time, case management of homeless students and foster students, working on any special registration, living surveillance, and getting children resources if they need them. From what he describes, the schedule of a PPW sounds very hectic. Being a PPW is similar to being an independent contractor for the school system. While a teacher’s boss is the principal, Mr. Fowlkes’ boss is located at The Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL), and even though Mr. Fowlkes might not always be in the building, he’ll always be around to help.
The hardest part of the job Mr. Fowlkes has is balancing the emotional, psychological, and business aspects. He described this as “being passionate and caring about the people you work with, but also knowing that you have to disconnect because it’s a very draining, emotional job.” Mr. Fowlkes does all that he can to connect with families and students while still focusing on his job in the school building.
With a humble attitude that twenty-four years of being in the education system will grant, Mr. Fowlkes is a person who truly cares about seeing students succeed academically. If you’re a person out there without every resource you need, Mr. Fowlkes among other Pupil Personnel Service Workers will remove every barrier in the way and give you the tools you need to succeed. If you ever need to find Mr. Fowlkes, his office is located in the media center. Like a good neighbor, Mr. Fowlkes is there.