Jenny Vazquez ‘20 Translates Experience and Passion into a Meaningful Career
“I have always had a passion for working with children”, says Jenny Vazquez ‘20. “As a teacher and caregiver, I thrived helping little ones grow and evolve.” Her passion for supporting child development translated naturally into a passion for family life education, as she saw the critical need for healthy relationships between parents and children through empathy and communication. NC State, and the Agricultural and Human Sciences Department’s Youth, Family, and Community Sciences graduate program, was the perfect place to strengthen her skills, knowledge, and confidence in family science.
“I entered NC State with a lot of passion, a lot of varied work experience, and no particular path to turn any of it into a career that I wanted”, says Vazquez. “I left NC State as a professional with formal, real-world applicable training that I could put on my resume, and a solid sense of my career before me”. Along the way, she enjoyed spending time amongst staff, faculty, and fellow students, who she says were “passionate and knowledgeable in their chosen fields”. Kim Allen, Annie Hardison-Moody, and Jaime Alexander were particularly impactful on her student experience and subsequent career.
Since graduating in the fall of 2020, Vazquez has applied her family science knowledge and passion to her role as Parent Educator for Champions for Children, a Tampa Bay-based organization whose goal is to prevent child abuse and neglect through education, enhancing parent-child relationships, and addressing families’ individual needs. As Parent Educator, Vazquez performs in-home visits to participating families, and presents the “Parents as Teachers” curriculum. “We bring personalized, developmentally-appropriate activities for parents to engage in with their children, as well as providing developmental screenings, connecting parents to resources in the community, and offering development-centered parenting support to help parents recognize appropriate expectations their children, support their developmental growth and build secure attachment”, says Vazquez.
By recognizing parents as children’s first and most important teachers, Vazquez notes, Champions for Children effectively partners with families to empower parents with an understanding of child development, and to provide support throughout the parenting journey. As Parent Educator, Vazquez gets to know parents, so she can provide individualized and results-focused support and resources related to parent-child relationships, stress management, and child development. Vazquez says that in her previous work as a caregiver or classroom teacher, she found herself drawn to those families that needed additional support. “This role”, she says, “allows me to fulfill my passion of helping families with their one-on-one needs, while providing them with valuable science and information that can empower them, and improve their parenting experience and their children’s outcomes”.
Vazquez says that she is inspired everyday by the families she works with, “and all the ways they work to do their best to support their families emotionally, physically, and financially, across every walk of life”. She’s also inspired by the family life professionals and coaches from the Youth, Family, and Community Sciences program, who have turned their passion into successful entrepreneurship. In the years to come. Vazquez sees herself becoming involved with the National Parents as Teachers organization and the Family Life Coaching Association, and becoming even more involved with big projects as a presenter and peer educator with Champions for Children.