A Site Manager’s DS Story

Marissa Chavez, GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego – My DS Story

Thinking back to over a year ago, I would have never thought I’d be serving folks with Down syndrome in the manner I do now but I am certainly happy for this opportunity and all the wonderful experiences along the way. I firmly believe in the motto “things happen for a reason” and I can certainly say coming into my GiGi’s role was for a purpose.

If you’ve met me you’ve probably heard my story as it is a huge part of my being and drives my daily work as a Site Manager and DSP (Direct Support Professional). So bare with me while I share once again surely not for the last time!

While working at UCP I had the honor of being a Program Coordinator and Supervisor to many individuals with different abilities and personalities. One such individual was, as he is now known “Ambassador Clark”. At this point in my career, I had only had the opportunity to work with few individuals with Down syndrome in a round about way until Clark and I crossed paths.

Clark worked at one of the job sites I supervised for and was stubborn as all get up, challenging my every direction but taking it all in so he could show me he could do anything I had presented him with in his own way. Clark was also one of the most outgoing and humorous guys as well, keeping his fellow co-workers on task and reminding them of their safety skills of which he learned from one of our many self-advocacy trainings. All along the way Clark had let me know of this magical place he called GiGi’s and how I’d just love it their. I brushed it off unknowingly of what my future were to hold and kept trucking along providing vocational support and direction.

One day towards the end of the pandemic I came to the realization I needed a change and was committed to continuing my service within the disability culture field. So I opened Zip-recruiter and low and behold GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego was looking for a Site Manager. My calling had been met. I took a moment and a huge breath and applied for the position. A couple days later I received a call to interview.

Once the interviews were complete, I felt a sense of relief but a great calmness that my change was for the better and that feel resonated with me. After accepting the Site Manager position, I decided to take myself out for a celebratory brew. Yes, those who know me know a good brew is also part of my story…ha When leaving the restaurant, the not so sunny San Diego sky’s decided to open to reveal a double rainbow. Just another sign that I was making the right move.

August 31, 2023 was my last day with my previous employer, September 1, 2023 was my first day of employment with GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego and I have yet to look back. This year has been filled with loads of new meetings, learnings and growing and I couldn’t be more thankful for taking my “Best of All” step as change is not one of my strong suits.

So it is safe to say my DS story will continue with more adventures via all the awesome things GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego and all the other Playhouses have to offer. Huge shout out to Ambassador Clark for his great advocacy skills, sharing GiGi’s Playhouse with others!

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