A Day in the Life As A Program Development Director
By Valerie K. & Nick S.
How long have you been with CDI? When did you start working for YSC? Have you had any other roles/titles with us?
I’ve been with CDI since September 2012, almost 8 years working primarily in Program Development, starting with summer camp programs. I’ve had a variety of projects, and my role in Program Development is to find out how we can improve our programs, facilitate staff development and innovate for the programs we offer. I also work with finances; staffing needs and other project management systems prior to starting something new. I try to consider a bit of everything to ensure all the variables work together. I started working on Young Set Club programs in 2015 and became more heavily involved summer of 2016, during our first major move to occupying local school space in Thousand Oaks, which was acquired by CDI in the 1980’s. Young Set Club has been around for more than 40 years, with the first location being established in Thousand Oaks, followed by El Dorado Hills in 2017 and Camarillo in 2019. And I began work with our Courthouse CWR and the QELO program about 2 years ago.
Tell me about your career and educational background. What roles were you in prior to coming to CDI?
I’ve been working with children and youth since 1994. I started working for the City of Pittsburg’s recreation department in aquatics and teaching swim lessons, which eventually led into lifeguarding and more additional aquatic programs. I originally went to college to study Engineering and eventually discovered and majored in Exercise Physiology. My plan (at the time) was to attend graduate school to get a PhD and become a scientist. I was still working in rec departments part time when an opportunity arose for an entry level management position with the City of Tracy recreation department. I became a Recreation Coordinator for them, helping run their adult athletic programs and fields. I later moved into a similar position for Pittsburg Recreation, continuing my City Recreation work. I later moved to the Community Youth Center in Concord to be their Program Director and Head Coach for their sports specific conditioning program, which really clicked with my undergraduate education. I continued working with afterschool programs at CYC, a unique place with ages 3-18. It was a recreational program to high level athletes around the world that would compete in Junior Olympics, wresting tournaments and more. CYC offered many other unique sport programs such as dance, gymnastics, judo, and taekwondo. CYC also provided academic support & tutoring. As I moved further into administration and management, my focus was more on fundraising and large-scale events to help keep that nonprofit running. After that, I came to CDI, starting to look at Program Development at statewide level for camp programs.
Is there a particular experience or memorable moment that stand out to you in your time here at CDI?
One of my favorite moments was at a Camp 4U workshop that Joel Monahan, Program Quality Manager, was facilitating at Lindbergh CDC. We were all out on the field getting into the camp spirit during the event when someone in the neighborhood complained because the camp spirit was a little too boisterous. There were loud cheers and the staff were all so engaged in the summer fun that someone had to come out and tell us all to quiet down. It thought it was an awesome moment of success that everyone was so engaged in the concept of summer fun that someone had called to complain.
I remember at my new hire orientation when Janis Adkins, Program Compliance Manager, was doing a training about CDI’s philosophy working with children. She had given us printouts of an apple along with red and green markers to color the apple. Then Janis passed around a plastic apple and said, “Let’s look at this apple.” Finally, everyone was given a real apple and knives to cut, smell, and taste the real apple. The point was powerful to me about experiential learning, and I had never encountered the lesson, so it really stuck with me. When Janis taught this, it made me realize I was working with a very special organization and the way we want to think about children learning. And I love the idea that children are inherently competent and that we should give them the actual apple and not just a photocopy of something to do.
What do you enjoy most about YSC and working here at CDI?
I enjoy all of the innovation in the organization. I enjoy seeing teachers and camp leaders come up with their own ideas and own them as they build them with kids. At CDI, we like flexibility and empowering staff. We provide the parameters, elements and tools for our brand, but we want people to have and use their imagination. It’s not a limited curriculum. I enjoy seeing staff taking ideas and making it their own and it’s often way better than I could have imagined. I love the passion brought to work by people like the teachers in our CWR programs, who do their best to support new children every day. Our teams are responsive to needs of children in the programs, and I love that!
What does a typical day look like in the role as a Program Development Director?
There’s a lot of collaboration, especially meeting with staff in different places. I work with teams that operate CFC Children’s Waiting Room programs in addition to the YSC programs. There are routine housekeeping duties throughout the month such as financial reports and making sure our invoicing systems are moving along. I try to make sure there is creative time to innovate and figure out how we can do things differently. When we’re envisioning what Young Set Club will look like during current and future years, there’s plenty of reflection and setting action plans in place. Right now, with everything going on, we’re trying to figure out how to best implement new programs to fit the new challenging times we’re in. That involves input from multiple sources. We identify potential problems and try to leverage different resources to fix those programs or find useful solutions, whether finding something that exists or using something new.
Tell us about the new virtual program that just launched? Do you have anything else in the works as we head closer into summer?
We’re working on a virtual camp pilot program this week. The pilot program runs for an hour a day via Zoom, which has been especially beneficial for 4th and 5th graders joining the session. YSC Camp Manager, Sabrina Barajas, has jumped right in to pioneer the first session. There are different themes and activities each day, such as focusing on short stories, trivia or craft engagement and each day begins with an ice breaker for everyone to get to know one another. It is a great forum for “campers” to be able engage with other campers online in a safe space.
Tell me something that you think makes our organization unique.
I love that CDI always puts children at the core of the organization. The people who lead and breathe a lot into the program quality from the Education Team, Program Directors, Site Supervisors and Teachers alike understand that each unique child is inherently competent and that the things we do should be focused on them. I love that we all try to enrich young lives by discovering and building programs in response to their needs and interests. I’ve learned so many things from my colleagues that have made me a better person, a better employee, citizen, and father. A lot of the reason I am a better human today is because of working for this organization.