In her pursuit to make a difference in the community, Mary Gonzales, the Riverside Educational Center’s Executive Director, met with the Riverside Task Force Inc., in the fall of 2005 to determine if there was a need for a student academic support program in the Riverside neighborhood. Mary Gonzales had previously worked as a third grade teacher and in her classroom she saw first-hand the limited academic support many Riverside kids were receiving at home due to several factors such as: Spanish-speaking parents, single family homes, and parents holding down more than one job. With a vision to support the kids of this special neighborhood, Mary partnered with the Riverside Task Force Inc., and in January of 2006 the doors of the Riverside Educational Center (REC) were opened with 22 students. Today the center boasts 115 students with an annual budget of over $220,000.00. “We believe that REC makes a difference in the academic achievement of students because of the sound structure we have applied to the program pieces,” explained Gonzales.
In June of 2006 Joy Hudak joined Riverside Educational Center as the grant writer. As the organization needed more time and attention Joy and Mary formed a Co-Executive Director model to meet the needs of the organization. Mary focuses on the programming aspect and oversees the staff, human resources, community partnerships and the basics of the program operations. Joy on the other hand spends her time on grant writing, program insurance, payroll, data analysis and fundraising efforts. Together the two of them have worked side by side since June 2006 to accomplish the many objectives of leading a nonprofit organization. “Together we are able get a lot done for REC and we are happy to do it because we believe in the organization,” says Hudak.
REC is considering opening other sites in the Grand Valley because the need is clearly there. “Our obstacle would be securing enough funding sources to financially provide for pilot sites,” says Gonzales, “And we are looking at ways to collaborate with schools and other entities to try to make this happen.”