Savannah Latina honored by YMCA
When the YMCA of Coastal Georgia held its 156th annual meeting last month at the Habersham Branch in Savannah, the assembled audience grew hushed as President/CEO Randy Bugos announced the winner of the 2011 Program Director of the Year. For an organization made up of several hundred staff members and volunteers who work in 9 different facilities in five counties, it was a remarkably well-kept secret.
“This year's recipient of our Program Director of the Year Award has worked for the Y of Coastal Georgia for almost four years,” Bugos began. “During that period of time the duties and responsibilities of the job have changed drastically- and this person has adapted to those changes beautifully.”
Audrey Rodriguez listened carefully as Bugos continued to describe someone whose staff had increased from two employees to nearly 50 in just a few months, but says it didn't really hit home until Bugos called her name that he was referring to her.
A three-year grant from the Goizueta Foundation had funded her position as Director of the Welcoming Hispanic Family Initiative from 2007 until the summer of 2010, a program whose goal was to introduce local Hispanic families to the YMCA's early childhood education and after-school programs. When grant funding expired last year, Rodriguez wasn't sure she would still have a job.
But her success in implementing the Hispanic Initiative spoke for itself as she increased Latino childcare enrollment by 96% and increased Latino Y membership in all areas of programming. Last summer, when the Y decided to consolidate all of its outreach programs under the leadership one of director, her name was at the top of the list.
“My new job keeps me so busy it can be overwhelming at times but I am very honored by this recognition,” Rodriguez said. “Here at the Y, I am surrounded by people who love what they do and they are all equally deserving of this award.”
Audrey Rodriguez was born in Mérida, Venezuela and emigrated to the US with her family when she was 8-years-old. She is the mother of three children and her extended family owns several restaurants in the Savannah area.
Youth programs remain a central focus of the YMCA today and Rodriguez' new responsibilities include overseeing the Student Leadership Partnership with Gulfstream Aerospace; the Teen Achievers program which helps young people develop their leadership skills; the Y on Wheels program which serves 8 local elementary schools; and the 21st Century After-school program which oversees 33 young people hired to offer after-school tutoring and mentoring to their peers.
“We are also optimistic that we will be able to secure additional funding through the United Way and Goizueta for our Hispanic initiatives,” Rodriguez said. “But regardless of what happens, we remain committed to recruiting and retaining Latino families in YMCA programming.
The YMCA has a very popular youth soccer league and Rodriguez issued a special invitation to local bilingual adults.
“We always need more bilingual coaches,” she said. “Volunteering as a coach is a great way to share your love for soccer with young people.”
For more information about your local YMCA and its programs, please contact Audrey Rodriguez at 912-354-5480 or by email at AudreyR@ymcaofcoastalga.org