When Guisela Marroquin (pronounced Gee-Zella Maa-ra-Keen) settled behind her desk for her first day as the Mamaroneck CAP Center’s new director, Tuesday, September 29, she looked right at home. And for good reason: The 26 year-old native of Guatemala has spent most of her life as a Mamaroneck resident.
“We moved to Mamaroneck when I was eight,” she recalls. “My mother’s brother came first. He liked it here because there was work for him. My mother and I followed about a year later. I had my first communion at St. Vito’s. I went to the Hommocks and Mamaroneck high school. All my friends are here.”
Being a local was among the considerations weighed when the search committee for WESTCOP, inc. (the CAP Center’s umbrella organization) looked at candidates to fill the chair left vacant when Beverly Villa Brewer, CAP director for over 36 years, announced she would retire in July. (See: CAP Center Director Stepping Down After 36 Years.)
Another important consideration was language.
“We have been seeing a steady influx of Latinos into the Washingtonville neighborhood surrounding the CAP Center over the years,” explains Luis Quiros, chairman of WESTCOP’s Board of Directors. “There has been a pressing need for someone who knows the people and who speaks the language. Now that Guisela is in place, the Mamaroneck CAP Center can serve this emerging constituency with greater cultural competence.”
Ms. Marroquin agrees that being Latino will be an advantage in reaching out to residents who have not yet availed themselves of CAP Center programs and services. “But make no mistake,” she adds,” I’m here to serve all of the community.”
A former member of the Future Business Leaders of America, Ms. Marroquin received a Boothsby public education award upon her graduation from Mamaroneck High School, as well as a scholarship to Syracuse University. She took two years of business administration there before deciding it was not for her.
“I thought it would be about efficiency,” she recalls. “But it was more about competing with the next guy and getting ahead. I did the work, but I didn’t like the lack of heart in it all.”
Disturbed by the poverty surrounding the campus, Ms. Marroquin volunteered for community service. Shortly thereafter she switched to social work and early childhood behavior studies, which she continued with at Westchester Community and Mercy Colleges after her scholarship ran out. In 2008, after graduating from Mercy with a degree in behavioral sciences, she was hired as the assistant director of the Lipton Corporate Child Care Center in White Plains. But the company was bought out by another corporation and downsized a year later, and Ms. Marroquin went to work at the Mamaroneck CAP Center, providing day care services for mothers enrolled in the ESL program. And when Ms. Villa-Brewer announced her intention to retire, several months later, Ms. Marroquin applied for the position and won out over the other candidates.
She couldn’t be more thrilled. “I‘m very excited to finally have the opportunity to do what in my heart I really want to do, which is social work, working with people face to face,” she exclaims.
CAP Center Advisory Board President Keith Yizar also sees the changing of the guard as an opportunity. “I anticipate that with her youthful vitality, Ms. Marroquin will do well here at the CAP center,” he says. “And the board will support her in her vision of the CAP Center’s future. That’s what we’re here for.”
Among the initiatives Ms. Marroquin looks forward to pursuing over the coming year are: workshops on domestic violence and alcoholism, more ESL and citizenship classes, opening up the CAP Center’s computer lab to residents, offering resume writing and job placement assistance services, and hiring a community advocate to be available when she needs to be away from her desk for administrative duties.
“Plus,” she adds, “my door will always be open.”
Asked how it feels to be at the head of a social service agency right in her home town, Ms. Marroquin replies: ”The timing is perfect. I’m right where I need to be.”