Love for kids leads to long-time profession helping them

  • Naomi Samuels

    Naomi Samuels

Posted12/30/2013 5:30 AM

Naomi Samuels' love of children and work experience with young people has led her to become the new director of the Northwest Family Center in Buffalo Grove, part of the Jewish Council for Youth Services.

"It is my hope to bring some new ideas in best practices that I have learned regarding the systems that support quality early childhood and the strong focus on professional development, teacher-child interactions and curriculum to the Northwest center," Samuels said.


She decided to take the job at JCYS Northwest center, which opened in 2000 and is the agency's third early childhood center, because it is "a warm, thriving center where children are loved and respected as people," she said.

"I was impressed by the staff and the facility, and the JCYS organization. I was looking for something in the early childhood field, but different from my previous jobs in an urban environment."

After about 20 years of working with Head Start and other government funded programs, she was "attracted to the challenges of a program without all the rules and requirements that government funding comes with in this field," Samuels said.

Previously, she had been the vice president of child development services at Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago for 15 years.

Samuels led her division to be accredited by the Council of Accreditation and National Association for the Education of Young Children. The center provides infant and toddler care, full and half-day preschool, kindergarten enrichment, before- and after-school care, summer day camp, and family events to over 500 children.

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"My years at Hull House were wonderful and very challenging," she said. "Trying to manage the various funding streams and their requirements and limitations, as well as ensuring quality services was very demanding. I worked with a wonderful team of dedicated people and we were able to ensure best practices and create some innovative programming as well. I was fortunate to apply for and receive two Early Reading First grants, as well as an 8-year McCormick professional development grant. These enabled the team to focus on continued quality improvements and for staff to grow and learn together."

Samuels herself was born on Chicago and raised in Evanston. She spent 15 years in Baltimore where her ex-husband was born and raised. She returned to Evanston 16 years ago to raise her two children. Her son Jake lives in Evanston and is the booking agent and manager of Space, a music venue in Evanston. Her daughter Hana lives in Bucktown and works as a property manager for Blue Star properties.

She is looking forward to the next phase of her career.

"I love young children. They are open, direct and honest," she said. "I love to watch their little minds engage as they tackle something new. I find it very satisfying to watch their rapid growth and learning and they are so much fun."

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