As she prepares to celebrate 14 years with First Children Services, Pam Radel reflects on her journey as a crucial contributor to the organization’s success and growth since its inception in 2009.
Starting as the First Children School in Fanwood, NJ, First Children Services has expanded substantially to currently serve children and families across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pam’s contributions in her role as Director of Administration have greatly supported the organization throughout the last 13.5 years.
“I saw the school go from 55 students to 105 students. As for staff, we’re over 100 here in Fanwood and 500 across the organization,” explains Radel. “We went from just one location in Fanwood to six, we moved into South Eastern Pennsylvania and every year we continue to grow even more.”
In her role, Pam oversees all building operations in Fanwood, including facilities management, housekeeping and security. She also coordinates with First Children School administration and the Department of Education (DOE) to ensure the school building is up to date on inspections, certifications, etc.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in my role over the years because as the organization grows, my responsibilities grow and my duties expand to support more of the organization,” comments Radel.
Pam also manages purchasing, working alongside vendors to provide teams with items such as business cards, collateral, building signage and more. One of her more recent projects included supporting the Southern New Jersey team in their move from Maple Shade to Mount Laurel in July 2022. She’ll also play a significant role in supporting the First Children School when it moves to a brand new building in Plainfield next year.
In addition to her work in administration, Pam holds an extensive background in childcare. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Kean University and worked at Children’s Specialized Hospital then moved to the Fanwood School in 1988, where she became the First Infant Room Teacher in the Childcare Program. In 1998, Pam became the Childcare Director and stayed in that position until 2009 when First Children Services was established by Joseph Hess. Pam also served as the Director of A Special Place Child Care Center until 2019. Although the building has seen many changes over the last 30 years, Pam has remained a consistent part of its history, operations and its life-changing impact on families.
“The impact of what we do here is inspiring because we strive to support children of all abilities in reaching their fullest potential. Some children may have had no other programs to go to, but their families found us and we can offer them stability, creativity and an education like no other,” says Radel. “Technology has advanced so much over the years. From communication devices to support for children visually impaired or hard of hearing; these students are truly getting the best care. It’s huge when you witness a deaf child hear for the first time. Also the staff are so loving to the children and have a lot of interaction with the families. It’s amazing.”
Throughout her 50 years in childcare, Pam has worked with children ages eight weeks through 21 years old and has loved every moment of it. She keeps in touch with many of her graduates and is proud to say that these programs were a stepping stone for the terrific young adults they’ve become.
“Over the years, I have seen children with special needs and their typically developing peers thrive in our inclusive classrooms and childcare programs,” says Radel. “I’ve seen children in my care graduate and go on to be nurses, doctors, valedictorians, legislative officials and more. I’ve established so many long-term relationships; I am so proud of all of them.”
Pam has seen a lot of children graduate from the programs and has touched the lives of many of them over the years. One of her students, Jessica Maldonado, who serves as First Children’s School Coordinator in Fanwood still has the pleasure fo working alongside Pam.
“I began attending the childcare program here when I was three years old and Pam was the childcare director. I was a full time preschool student that truly enjoyed coming to school because we had so much fun,” explains Maldonado. “From show and tell to our walking trips. We were always engaged and learning something new. Today, I work at the same school I attended preschool at and this place has always felt like home. It feels really special to be able to work at a place that I grew up in.”
Throughout her extensive career with First Children, Pam has seen the kids reach new goals and find success in the program. Her dedication to these students and kids has a direct impact on that success.
“For me, seeing the kids come in as small children and graduate having achieved certain goals and reach milestones makes me so happy,” explains Radel. “These kids are learning all types of skills, like independence and basic life skills. Some come in who could not walk or speak and graduate talking in full sentences or walking down the hallway. Students who have behavioral challenges graduate learning how to better manage their emotions. Hearing them say hello to me in the hall and seeing them happy makes me happy. No matter what success looks like for them, it’s at all different levels and we meet each student where they are.”