Written by Kristina Medeiros.
Reflecting back on my three years here at Many Mansions, I realize that I could probably ponder up 40 of my own stories to help others better understand why I find this work both meaningful and worthwhile.
Many Mansions sort of happened for me by accident—or by fate, I guess you could say. I was about to graduate from college and needed a job after moving back home, and all I knew was that I wanted to work with children in some capacity. I never anticipated that this part-time gig would turn into a dream career. It was my two years spent as the Coordinator of Villa Garcia that ultimately made me switch my graduate major to pursue a career in nonprofit work.
Did you know that the children and teens at Villa Garcia made up a song about their site? They liked to sing these creative lyrics (including the catchy, “We’re the best site of all, even though we’re so small!”) on buses every year during Summer Camp. In the beginning, I tried shushing them in hopes of not ruffling the feathers of other staff and campers, but after a few weeks of getting to know them, I began singing along. In my current position and after working with all of our program youth here at Many Mansions, I can truthfully say that every Children Services site we have is uniquely special and there really is no “best site of all”, but my time working at Villa and building a community—a family—with these kids changed my whole outlook on life.
At the time, Villa was known for having an older teen population, primarily girls. In June of 2019, one of these teens graduated from high school. I first met her when she was 15, and anyone who knows her knows that her demeanor is very quiet and very kind. This teen is studious, athletic, and giving with both her time and heart. It took months of working with this Villa resident before we ever had a full conversation, but once we established this relationship, we spoke in length every day about her academics, her career goals, and about any typical teen things she felt like discussing. I saw her go from being one of our shyest teens to becoming a leader, a mentor, and the epitome of what anyone would want in a child’s role model.
A week before graduation, this teen handed me a ticket to see her walk across the stage. We had never spoken before about me attending her graduation, so to be given this ticket was extremely touching. In addition to graduating, she was honored with one of the most prestigious scholarships any graduating senior could be awarded in this county. She is now a dedicated worker and college student, and she continues to set an example for all those we serve. She is the type of person who makes you want to be better; more than that, she is the type of person who encourages me to be better.
I am inspired by the youth we are privileged to work with here at Many Mansions. Despite any trial or tribulation they are facing, they have hearts of gold with the tireless dedication to match. From our “Villa pool jumps” every week during Summer Camp to our special holidays spent together as our “Villa family”, I am very fortunate that my first years spent here at Many Mansions were spent with the kids who taught me more about life than any adult ever could. I am fortunate that I still get to go back and visit with Villa weekly. Every time, it feels like I’m coming back to visit with family.