Lab 4: Feature on Juliet Oppenheim

The life of a paraprofessional turned EMT.

Juliet Oppenheim getting ready for her portrait shot outside of Avalon Bakery in Detroit, Mi on Saturday October 15, 2016.

Juliet Oppenheim and I sit outside one of Detroit’s most bustling coffee shops. The sun is bright and the city is pretty busy with family and friends chatting and drinking their morning coffee. 

We take a seat and began to dialogue about what Juliet’s life has been like every since she graduated Oakland University in the Spring of 2015.

Juliet currently lives in Hamtramck, a small city on the edge of Detroit. The city’s population is around 22,000 according to the 2010 census report and the number surprisingly has stayed the same over the years. Hamtramck is known for its close knit community in which Juliet loves.

Though she lives in Hamtramck she travels daily from Ferndale to Detroit as she works as a waitress at a local Ferndale bar/restaurant and teaches at a Detroit Midtown yoga studio during the day.

Juliet Oppenheim playing after her Saturday ariel yoga class where students left the Midtown yoga studio feeling refreshed on October 15, 2016. Juliet is known to teach a wonderful challenging class for students.

Designing her career around her passions.

Juliet graduated Oakland University with a unique degree in integrative studies, she blended together child and adolescent psychology, multi cultural communication and holistic medicine creating a diverse program that suited her passions.

Juliet’s reason for blending the three fields of study was so she could keep her options open and her skills diverse. She thought about how much she wanted to work with  adolescents in order to help with the wide range of problems that Detroit youth face and this program was a way for her to get started.

Juliet was guaranteed a job right before she graduated at a Detroit Charter school on the East-side as paraprofessional.“It wasn’t something I wanted to do necessarily but wasn’t opposed to it,” Juliet says.

Juliet sips her morning coffee as she gazes at her notes before her class on Saturday.

I encouraged her to be honest about what she has gained so far in this field.

“I hated it.” Juliet says as she describes the position she was put into winter 2016. As she started to talk about the education system that Detroit runs on she spoke passionately about how the whole system needs a makeover and sticking someone in the classroom without proper resources wasn’t beneficial for the youth nor herself.

Juliet position at the the charter school on the East-side entailed her teaching a variety of fourth graders who required special attention rather it was developing their math skills or teaching them the difference between internal and external characteristics of characters in literature.

Juliet tried to fill in the academic gaps that were causing the children to score low on test. This wasn’t the first time she worked in this position, ten years ago she taught at a charter school and noted that at that time she didn’t have a degree, it was easier to persuade the board and she was paid way more.

“It isn’t that student’s don’t want to learn, it’s other obstacles that get in the way” she says.  Obstacles like short attention spans, lacking social skills and the fact that students were only required to learn math and reading. She firmly believed that they needed more, especially when it came to the way students retained the information.

Juliet left the charter school that summer, she felt she wasn’t helping the youth that she passionately wanted to help in the beginning. It wasn’t that she gave up, she knew that the children needed more than what the school wanted her to provide.

Juliet’s life after the career that failed her.

Juliet left the school knowing that she had to put another plan into action and rethink her whole career. Now in January 2017, Juliet will spark a new interest of hers and began her journey of becoming a certified EMT. She plans to take courses at Macomb Community College. Juliet now plans to save lives on a different level.

This new career chose came to Juliet when she thought about what would take her less time to do seeing that she spent so much time on her previous degree. It has all worked out for her, since she has taken most of the courses required to become a first responder now all she has to do is spend a semester doing the light work (maybe not so light.)

This career has different opportunities just like Juliet wants. She is still working in the context of trauma. She loves the fact that no matter what gender, race or religion you are when you call 911 you get the same treatment no matter what and to her that’s what matters.

Juliet hopes that this new career will help her strengthen some of her weaker areas like the theories she believes in, she will now be able to implement them.

The certification will cost Juliet around $2,000 and the statistics say that EMT’s in the next ten years will be in high demand and that makes her feel confident. 

Juliet will stay in Hamtramck after she graduates and continue to put her passions to the test even if this time around it’s different.