On a given day, she juggles tuition payments from parents, checks classrooms for adequate heat and will even troubleshoot an afternoon snack that needs more fruit (to meet state-mandated nutrition guidelines). If there are issues to be resolved, Payen, an Administrative Assistant at Community Hills, is soon on top of it. A nine-year veteran of Community Hills, Payen understands what makes the school tick and ensures that each day runs like clockwork.
“I do have a hand in everything,” said Payen, who is affectionately called, “Ms. Nelly,” by everyone. “I always like to know what’s going on.”
Each morning as the school awakens to life, students and parents stream through the glass double doors to be greeted by a chipper Payen. “I make it my business to know them,” she said. “I feel it’s a little impersonal if you don’t.”
Quick to laugh, Payen also offers a steadfast presence felt throughout the building. When students from Classroom 6 filed down the hallway but got jumbled due to a crying child, Payen deftly intervened. She’ll spy a loose shoestring and gently nod towards a student with, “Your laces.” Her mother, Marie Payen, serves in the kitchen at Community Hills.
Director Cheryl Mack said that Payen “stands out as an employee not only because she provides efficient administrative support and displays a strong work ethic, but she is also passionate about her function at Community Hills.”
Mack has worked closely with Payen since becoming the director in July and described her as “a consummate professional” and a compassionate co-worker towards her colleagues. “Nelly knows what the Director needs before the request is even made, and as a self-starter, will never be seen sitting idle or waiting for the next directive,” Mack added.
Parent Rasheeda Smith says Payen always wears a smile and is eager to help. “Ms. Nelly has the biggest heart. She always goes the extra step,” said Smith, whose son currently attends CHELC and daughter previously attended. One year when Smith’s family hit hard times during Thanksgiving, Payen arranged for her to receive a food basket.
A recipient of the Monsignor William J. Linder Scholarship, Payen graduated from Newark’s Saint Vincent Academy in 2002. She attended Essex County College and majored in social science with a focus in psychology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Kean University in Union in 2007 and later returned to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, although financial constraints have put her studies on hold.
Payen was born in Pétion-ville, Haiti, and now lives in Orange. She is engaged to her fiancé, Karl Noel.