Editor’s note: The “Meet the” series profiles the people behind groups, organizations and businesses in the community.
By Lillian Bowe
T.J. Garcia loves to work with children, so naturally he is seeking a degree in education at Eastern New Mexico University.
Garcia, a sophomore from Albuquerque, saw there was an opening at the Portales Recreation Center over a year ago and it was the perfect opportunity to work with children.
Garcia said he specializes in sports such as football, which he plays with his group of students, grades 4-6.
“I could be having the worst day ever when I come in and the kids are just so happy to see me, I instantly am in a better mood,” Garcia said Thursday.
Garcia is a part of the 11 staff members of the Portales Recreation Center. They work Monday through Friday with the children, either helping them with their homework, playing with them or other activities that are planned for the day.
Emily Vickers, 22, is the one who plans the days activities for the students and assigns the employees their duties of the day.
Vickers has been working at the center since September 2012 and has been loving it ever since.
“I was a part of an afterschool program when I was a kid and it impacted me so much, so I wanted to be a part of that,” said Vickers, who is from Ruidoso.
Vickers is also a graduate of ENMU and received her degree in music last year. Vickers said the children are split into age groups every day.
Every day features a different theme and Thursday is fitness day.
Nick Deutch, 22, was hula hooping and jump roping Thursday with his second and third grade students.
Deutch has been working at the center for a year and said every day is a blast.
“I wanted to be a part of the rec center because I wanted to be with the kids and it is so fun,” said Deutch as one of the children was pulling his arm to play.
The employees of the center work three hours a day and some are ENMU students as well, so balancing school and work can be tiring.
“I really have to stay on top of my school work and my job, but I love my job. I have a group of kids that fight over me saying, ‘I am T.J.’s favorite.’ It is just so funny to see them basically fighting over me,” said Garcia.
Garcia, Vickers and Deutch all said they have a passion to work with children and would not trade their job for anything else.