Johara Malcom is the program director for the PSMP program and could not be in a better role to serve the youth of Ithaca and Tompkins County. A native Ithacan, Johara grew up attending the schools she now works in. She also raised four children in the school district. Johara admits to hating school when she was growing up but now can appreciate the importance of making an effort and doing one’s best in school to have choices later on. As a female and person of color, she remembers the assumptions that were made about her and the things she was told she could not do. She knows the issues teens of color and teens in poverty face when going through school without purpose and direction. That’s where she and the PSMP program come in. In her role, Johara helps bridge the gap between PSMP students, their parents, teachers and school staff, and the resources that her students need. Johara knows how difficult it can be for parents to navigate the school system and know where their kids are academically, which is what makes the PSMP program so valuable.
“High school is such a big space to navigate if you don’t fit in with any particular group. Parents can’t be everywhere and teachers aren’t trained in trauma-based behaviors. It’s important for me to know the whole child as they work through the school system.”
Johara is able to make lasting change by being the mentor she needed as a high school student. Not only has Johara been in the same place as many PSMP participants, but she has committed her adult life to making a difference in the human services field. Johara knows the grit that is needed to overcome the challenges of sticking with school and graduation. She worked full-time at a domestic violence shelter while earning her associate degree as the single mom of two kids. Following that, she ran a childcare business and then worked as an assistant in the Ithaca City School District before coming to the Youth Bureau. Later, she attended college full-time, earning her bachelor degree, while also working at the Ithaca Youth Bureau full-time. During this time, she was raising her four children of color and trying to help them as students navigate their experience in the school system. It’s no wonder that Johara is so passionate about sharing her talents and experiences to help youth in Ithaca be successful. Johara focuses on building relationships with the kids and families, building an important level of trust and rapport with them. Because of this strong relationship, PSMP is a life-changing support system for participants and their families.
"This is my dream job. I can focus on building relationships with kids and families that often get left behind because of a lack of resources and accessibility. It’s important that this program exists to bridge that gap and help these students be successful.”