To Aliah Brozowski, it’s the little things that matter most.
Sometimes she’ll be out in the community when she’ll meet someone who used to be in program.
“It’s very rewarding, however many years later, to have a kid come up to you who’s now grown, to say hello to you or give you a hug,” says Brozowski. “They’re just interested in how you’re doing and letting you know how they’re doing. It definitely shows how you make an impact in their lives.
“That’s the opportunity that we have here, to really make an impact on their lives forever.”
Brozowski, 29, is the city of supervisor. As part of her job, she’s responsible for the at and the senior adult recreation program, and is involved in community outreach as part of the Santee Community Collaborative. She also oversees and leadership programs, the and supervises facility rentals and a staff of anywhere from 13 to 20 part-time workers (depending on the season).
Brozowski started as a part-time intern working with the Teen Center in 2000, then became a coordinator and supervisor there. After graduating from Alliant International University in Scripps Ranch in 2003, she was hired in her current position.
Though she doesn’t have the hands-on involvement in the Teen Center that she used to have, it’s under her umbrella and close to her heart.
Providing programs and a place to go for teens is essential, and she says working with kids from about the sixth through 10th grades is energizing.
“It’s fun and we get a different perspective,” she says. “I say that and people are like, ‘Whoa, teenagers.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, teenagers.’ But this is different than being the parent of a teenager or the teacher of a teenager.
“This is the opportunity to meet teenagers and show them that I respect them and appreciate them and provide them with positive adult role models…
“And they’re great. They bring so much to the table, always fun and entertaining. There’s never a dull moment.”
A ‘critical’ program
As Brozowski talks about her job, she’s sitting at a table outside the small building that houses the Teen Center, located just a few paces from Lake No. 5 at .
It’s a weekday afternoon, and just a few students have started to arrive from Santee’s middle schools and high schools. Inside, two boys are playing pool while a girl is studying.
The Teen Center is open in the afternoons, Monday through Friday, providing a place where teens can go in the hours between school and the time many working parents come home.
Brozowski says about 30 teens each day use the facility. The center offers inside and outside activities, plus quiet times for homework (with assistants on hand to help).
The center also offers special outings through the year and a monthly , where as many as 300 teens from all over Santee come to dance, eat and take part in games in a supervised environment.
Brozowski calls the teen program “critical.” It’s somewhere safe kids can count on to hang out, see friends, have fun – and stay out of trouble or keep from getting bored.
“Especially with all the stressers going on in everybody’s lives right now,” she says. “Our kids are feeling those things as well.”
With a push from teens -- who lobbied the – the first Teen Center was opened in 2001 in the Mission Creek shopping center. In 2006, it moved into its current home at Santee Lakes. There’s not as much room inside in the new building, but outside, options are limitless.
“It’s wonderful,” she says.
The annual budget for the Teen Center and overall teen program is about $75,000 per year (with the city hoping to recover about $19,000 in costs through admission to events and sponsorships).
‘OK, this is cool’
When Brozowski was going to in Lakeside, she had no intention of working in recreation. She was thinking about something in the health field.
But when a teacher asked her to volunteer for a program to help mentor middle school students, she discovered she enjoyed it. Her supervisors liked her, and hired her to work for the Lakeside REC Club after she graduated in 1999. She worked there, and then Santee’s Teen Center, while going to college.
“OK, this is cool, I thought,” she says. “I like this and I happened to be good at it and it worked out and even through college I thought, “This is a great college job. I work part-time, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s all these things. When I graduate I’m sure I’ll do something else.’
“And then I realized, nope, actually this is my career.”
Now her job has evolved to include meetings, staff management and “making sure everything’s running the way it’s supposed to run,” says Brozowski, who went on to earn her master’s in organizational management and leadership from Springfield College in 2009. She looks at programs today, and tries to shape where they’ll be going in the years ahead.
She’s also found she enjoys working with the senior recreation program – called the -- as much as she does the teens.
“Really, the whole concept is the same,” she says. “Serving the population that we work for.”
Coming full circle
Much of her time now is spent working with staff rather than directly with teens, but some of those staff members have come through the teen program, so she sees “the circle coming around.”
Working with staffers who are in high school or college gives her the same type of satisfaction, she says.
James Jeffries, 22, is one of those who has come full circle. He started coming to the Teen Center as a seventh grader and is now a rec leader there.
Jeffries, a political science major at SDSU, says Brozowski, has always been open and caring about the teens she works with.
“For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been very consistent,” he says. “She’s there for any kid and always concerned.”
These days the job would have to be satisfying in order for her to leave her young daughter each day.
She and her husband, Travis – whom she met in high school -- had their first child, Ava Rose, in April. After taking maternity leave, Brozowski is back, but admits life has changed.
“It’s definitely a different ballgame now,” she says.
Different at home, but the same at work.
“We consider ourselves to be like an unforgettable stranger,” she says of the teen program. “Like, 20 years from now, the kids who are here might not remember our names or who we are, but they’ll remember that in their community there was a place they could go and have fun and connect with adults.
“Even if they don’t remember my name, I’m OK with that as long as they have that positive feeling when they look back on it.”