As Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week comes to a close, we wanted to end it by sharing Marlene Real’s experience as an afterschool professional.

Marlene is a Quality Programs Coordinator for the Y’s Expanded Learning Program. She started off her career as a Youth Leader back in 2011 and we have had the privilege to witness her utilize the knowledge and experience she gained as a Youth Leader to an eventual QPC! Learn more about why Marlene loves working for the YMCA and serving the San Diego community!

What inspires you to be your best at work?
What inspires me to be the best at work is knowing that families look and depend on our programs to help with their child care needs. Most families depend on our programs in order for them to continue working and support their own families. What this means to me, is that families are trusting our programs with their children's lives and well-being, that's a huge responsibility. I take this to heart and have a meaningful purpose to help everyone in our programs every day.     

What's your favorite part about being a QPC?
My favorite part about being a QPC is having such a broad audience where we could make a difference every day. We oversee multiple sites, of which each has a Supervisor, an Assistant, Youth Leaders, and most importantly our students. Yes, our priority at each site is to make sure that our students feel comfortable and safe, but the best part is making sure the students are having fun. I'm proud to say that I'm committed to this and look forward to learning and continuing this with all of our programs.

How did your experience as a Youth Leader, Assistant Site Supervisor, and Supervisor help give you the knowledge and leadership as a Quality Program Coordinator?
Change isn't always easy, but it's the reason why I've been able to grow within the organization. I began my YMCA career working as a Youth Leader for the Child Care and Dash Programs in Eastlake, Chula Vista, and continued as a Youth Leader but transferred over to Border View YMCA where I worked for the San Ysidro Schools, both Elementary and Middle School. Within those years I worked at multiple sites and experienced various communities and leaderships. I was able to take in and absorb what worked and what didn't. I would take it back to my sites, share it with co-workers and leadership, and continue to strive for the best for our students. I kept this mentality as I grew and moved to be an Assistant Site Supervisor and Supervisor. Every experience and position is important to learn from in order to run successful programs.

What are some of your fondest memories as a previous Youth Leader?
I've had the most fun as a Youth Leader. I've worked at various sites and had multiple experiences with different age groups, each unique in their own way, however, I have to say the age group I was able to connect with the most was 3rd and 4th grade. It's an age group where they're excited to be part of a team and open to learning new things. I've always had big energy and they were most definitely able to match it. I worked with this age group at Sunset Elementary School, where we created a Grinch play for the school and program. We had a great turn out and the students had lots of fun. I was also able to create two sports teams for soccer and basketball, given the community we were in, families were very grateful to have their children have this type of experience at that age.

What message would you like to share to anyone who is interested in joining this field? 
I highly recommend working for the YMCA. It's an organization that cares about your well-being and helps you grow as a person and as a professional. You would never feel like you have to go to work, you get to go to work and enjoy every day.
About YMCA Expanded Learning Programs
YMCA Expanded Learning Programs provides state and federally funded before and afterschool programs in San Diego County. Through partnering with local school districts, families, and communities, we are able to offer students safe and nurturing environments that will propel them into tackling college, career, and life. By collaborating with district partners, our programs aim to provide students with fun, educational, and engaging activities that are focused on academics, enrichment, building social skills, as well as physical activities.