What do you do?
Carmen Vazquez-Guy

Where do you work and what is your title?
       I work for the Parks and Recreation Department as a teen program coordinator at the West Center for Intergenerational Learning.
What do you do there and/or what are you responsible for?
       I plan, coordinate and supervise programs to keep teens active year-round in our community. These activities are based on values such as education, socialization, cultural awareness and health and wellness. Some of our already-established programs are Teen Nights and afterschool and summer programs. Because the center was founded with the purpose to unite youth, adult and seniors, I offer activities such as trips, classes and events for all ages. The most popular of these intergenerational programs are the trips where grandparents have the opportunity to take their grandkids to the Sand Dunes, the zoo or simply pick fruit at an apple farm. To help provide quality programs and variety of services, this job requires daily contact with people, business and agencies in the neighborhood.
How long have you been doing this kind of work (total)? How long on the Westside?
       I have been working for the city for more than 20 years. I was first hired to help implement recreational and intergenerational programs throughout the city. Five years ago, I was assigned to work as a program coordinator with teens at the West Center.
What do you like best about it (other than quitting time)?
       I love working at West. One of the most important factors in an organization is to work as a team. At West Center, we have a great team of program coordinators and staff. We complement each other and work together on ideas for recreational programs. We are also very pleased to have Dr. Clay Gomez, the West Middle School principal, who is helping us implement these programs in a safe environment at the school facility.
If you could change one thing (other than pay), what would it be?
       I would like to change the way some adults perceive and stereotype today's teens. I would like to see these adults volunteering in some of our recreational programs in order to connect with this population and accept them for what they are: great kids. As adults, we need to realize that things are very different than when we grew up. Our communities are changing very fast, and our teens are facing divorce, mobility and no relatives to help with advice. It is time to CREATE community.
What part of your work did your training/education never prepare you for?
       When I first came to the West Center as teen program coordinator, I was a little bit "shook up." After so many years working with the adult population at Hillside and Otis Park Centers, the thought of working with these computer technology-savvy teens scared me. But after interacting with them for a few months, I learned that today's teens still cope with emotional ups and downs and peer pressure the way I did when growing up. At the end of every school year, I feel sad when I say good-bye to the eighth graders, after seeing them grow and turn into fine young adults ready to start high school.
What makes working on the Westside special?
       There are many reasons that working at the Westside has been a blessing to me. The businesses, agencies, churches and people from the Westside are always willing to help when you need them. They have helped me coordinate many cultural events at West Center and Bancroft Park by donating their time, food or other items. Personally I love working on the Westside because during the warm weather, I can walk to many great family restaurants to eat lunch or go shopping at the unique stores in the business area. This is a very friendly and family- oriented community, and they are very proud of their history.

“What do you do?” is a regular feature in the Westside Pioneer. If you know someone who has an interesting job on the Westside (but doesn’t live here), he/she might be a candidate for this column! If you know someone who might qualify, give us a call at 471-6776.