To dedicate 35 years to any one organization, cause, or mission is to dedicate a lifetime. For Diane Semper, this year marked her 35th dedicated to the Children & Youth programs at BronxWorks — 35 years and still counting. We spoke to Diane to see what lay behind that level of commitment, and she made it immediately clear that it’s all about the kids.
I’ll probably be here until I’m 65, or until NYC says you can retire.”
Diane was raised in the Melrose section of the Bronx. She grew up knowing the building at 1130 Grand Concourse as a YWHA. In 1985, as a 16-year-old, Diane took a summer job at the Girls Club of New York at 1130 Grand Concourse working for a summer youth program, and she has basically stayed every since. In 1995 when BronxWorks, then the Citizens Advice Bureau, merged with the Girls Club of New York, she stayed on through the merger.
Like so many BronxWorks employees, Diane embodies the spirit of giving back and uplifting her community. Throughout her decades at BronxWorks, Diane has worked with hundreds of children and students of all ages. She continued to stay because she felt that the programs offered so many wonderful things to the children. Currently, she is a Teacher’s Assistant with the Early Childcare Learning Center at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center working with our youngest learners.
Diane takes pride in the activities they do with children in her programs. “It feels good to know that you were a part of a child’s life where you helped them develop into productive, responsible, and loving adults,” she says.
BronxWorks summer and afterschool programs utilize thematic work to address learning loss, organizing lessons like Explorers of the Grand Concourse, where counselors take students through the Bronx and give them a history of the borough through writing, reading, poetry, and arts and crafts. Diane said that “We can take play and use it in a way to help children improve in academics, social skills, and other relationships they will have in their lives.” Counselors are also keen to celebrate every accomplishment of their students, such as graduations, strong report cards, or special awards, to show that they are just as excited by these successes as their students.
These are the qualities that make Diane so beloved among her students and their families. Years later she still keeps up with several of her students and she speaks about them with joy and pride for what they have made of themselves as young adults. There are even examples of some of Diane’s students who are now employees of BronxWorks. Outside of work, Diane likes to travel, read, and cook for others. She and a close group of friends who have all worked at BronxWorks at some point in time have a book club called Sisters on the Go Book Club. The group, which includes the beloved and missed Suzette Walker, have been friends for over 20 years.