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“Coach Joe” DeFrancesco will be coaching teens to success in a new Teen Advisory Board at the North Haven Memorial Library beginning Tuesday, March 26. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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In his previous corporate career, Joe DeFrancesco might have felt a bit of pressure going before the board. Now the man who earned his moniker “Coach Joe” through his involvement is back before the board—and teens—in his role as library technical assistant at the North Haven Memorial Library (NHML).
At the library, Joe is helping start a new program, the Teen Advisory Board, to help older kids get ahead.
A teen advisory board was something NHML had been interested in for some time but, for one reason or another, couldn’t bring it together. Now that Joe is on the scene, he plans to move it forward.
The first meeting of the advisory board will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26. The group’s primary intention is to help teens earn the community service hours they need to graduate, but Joe hopes that it can be more than that.
“Hopefully we can have a handful of teens that maybe want to take the bull by the horns,” he says. “This is their Teen Advisory Board. I’m only here to guide them through the process.”
Already, he’s created a website for the board where participants can brainstorm what else the group can do together where everything from creating a chess club to preparing for the library’s summer carnival has been suggested.
“You get everybody’s input and you don’t know where it’s going.” Joe says. “It depends on them.”
Joe says he wants the program to also help teens develop experiences useful when apply to colleges or whatever may come next in their lives.
“If I can see what their needs are or where they want to go, then I may be able to help them or guide them in that area,” he says. “It’s just going to make the patron’s life better.”
In some ways, coaching was inevitable for Joe, who was raised by his Italian immigrant parents in West Haven near the University of New Haven.
“In about 1968, they turned my backyard, which was all woods, into the athletic facility for the University of New Haven, so if someone hit a home run off of center field, it went into my yard,” Joe says. “And lo and behold, I had my love for sports.”
As a high schooler, Joe knew he loved working with children. He worked at summer camps then and even thought he might own a camp himself one day.
“Fast forward, I graduate college and working with children wasn’t going to pay,” he says.
Joe’s corporate career took him from IBM to Bayer Pharmaceuticals where he would stay for 30 years, selling medicines and eventually surgical equipment.
“[I still knew] that I wanted to work with children. But I had a fun time with my own children,” he says.
He’d soon have an excellent example of how he could continue coaching.
“I married my second wife [Donna] a decade ago and she’s a children’s librarian,” Joe says. “I used to get a little jealous that I would be traveling all over the northeast and Canada…and then when I came home she’d have all these wonderful stories.”
He and Donna homeschooled two children and, now that they’re out of the house, Joe realized he could afford to start his second career as a children’s librarian. But it wasn’t easy.
He went out to build his résumé, teaching English online to Chinese students and volunteering for his wife at the North Branford library.
In January, Joe took a fulltime position at NHML, where he would become “Coach Joe” once again, this time by helping kids learn and get experience for their future.
“I want to promote or coach lifelong learning. I want to instill that in children,” Joe says. “It wasn’t instilled in me until later on in life.
“My parents were struggling to make it in the United States, moving from another country, so going to the library and early literacy was something that wasn’t in their wheelhouse,” he says.
He says he’s happier working to bring this love of learning to children at the library than he was in his old career.
“The children bring so much happiness to me,” Joe says. “I want to talk to the parents about how important it is to read in front of their children…to read with their children.”
Teens interested in participating in the North Haven Memorial Library Teen Advisory Board can email Joe DeFrancesco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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