by Danielle Lankford
Guadalupe School Development Assistant
I began working for Guadalupe School just about three months ago, and I must admit – although it is my dream job, I was nervous about jumping into the world of nonprofit work in a new city, as a recent college graduate. In my first few days, however, I got to know the knowledgeable, influential, and kind Director that my colleagues clearly loved and respected. She made me feel welcome, not only at Guadalupe, but in Salt Lake City. The more time I spend at Guadalupe School, the more I see Vicki walking the halls with staff, parents, and donors, speaking passionately about the work we do here. And, I’m almost certain they feel the same way I do: they are part of the team and we are all in this together, each with our own responsibility to help fight the cycle of poverty.
As Vicki prepares for her retirement, we realize that Guadalupe School will not be the same without her, but it also won’t be the same because of her.
Many of us here at Guadalupe could tell stories about how Vicki has inspired us and how she has made the organization what it is today, but after sitting down and speaking with her, I thought I would simply let her tell you in her own words, and I think you will understand why it is a privilege to work with her.
- How did you get into nonprofit work?
I got into nonprofit work by working in a rest home. I was a recreational therapist and very passionate at the time about the treatment of older people and wanted to make sure I could share the exciting things. In other words, aging didn’t necessarily have to look gloomy. It could be fun, and it was. We had a great time with our seniors. I really did enjoy it and I think the other thing was that families enjoyed it. They wanted people to know that their parents were really something to them.
- What have you enjoyed most about working at Guadalupe School?
I would have to say the staff. I think we have a remarkable staff. It’s not easy running a school or having to work all the different areas that a school has, and there’s a lot of stuff that you have to be aware of. And I look at the staff and they come every day and most of them are smiling. You know, some of them maybe they’re not feeling well, but I think on the whole they’re very committed. And, they’re very committed to making sure that the children know the information that they need to know and that means a great deal to them. I just think that they’ve been terrific and I’ve really learned a lot. I wish them well, each and every one of them.
- How has Guadalupe changed since 2005?
Well, more staff. More kids. When I came on we might have had 20 or 30 staff members. Kids, we had 89. I’ll never forget that number, because I didn’t understand why we only had 89 children and then I realized that was based on a contract with the Salt Lake school district. I used to think, “Well I wonder if it will ever grow?” But wow, we did!
- What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
I think it would have to be the building of the school. When you come from how far back we’ve come, at the start of the school, in 1970, we never really had a school that was big enough to meet all of our dreams and our expectations. So, to be able to build this new building and use it the way that it needs to be used and be able to have all of the blackboards that you need, the smartboards that you need, having enough desks and trying to imagine what it would look like. We went from 13,000 sq. ft. to 50,000 sq. ft. which is pretty incredible. Regardless of whether that was me, or somebody else who did that, it’s just the fact that we had such a small little unit to go off of, and then all of a sudden it went up to 50,000 sq. ft. So, I think it was really fun to watch it grow.
- What are you most looking forward to about retiring?
Retirement has such an enigma attached to it, and there’s so much more when you look at people who are retired. I look at people who walk through our doors every day to try to help kids learn how to read. Where would we be without those people? So, I think it’s a great opportunity. Am I nervous? Yes. But, how do I get involved? Maybe as a kid, I wasn’t a good reader, so I could read to kids. Maybe that wasn’t a big thing in my life, but I believe when people come together and want to do something, it will happen.
- What would you say to young people who are interested in nonprofit careers?
The nonprofit arena is wonderful. For me, it opened up so many doors. I got a chance to meet so many wonderful people and it was fun. I had a lot to share, but I had a lot coming back to me.
Guadalupe School is a United Way of Salt Lake Community School.