"Receiving this award showed me that the power and impact afterschool programming has is much larger than what I was able to see working in my own community," said Gomez, who now serves as an Out-of-School Time Specialist at Utah Afterschool Network. "When I started working in afterschool programming, my view was just to what was in front of me: The community I was serving, the schools at which my youth attended, and the day to day aspects of my program."
But that changed when Gomez traveled to NAA Annual Convention in 2015.
"It showed me that I was a part of something that was bigger than myself," Gomez explained. "It showed me that I had a much larger community of folks who thought like me, had similar passions as I did, and were putting in the work in their own communities."
Receiving this recognition challenged Gomez to think about the next steps in his career at a much larger scale moving forward.
"I'm happy to say that I'm still involved in afterschool but now my focus towards programming is from a larger lens," said Gomez, who joined the Utah Afterschool Network in January 2018 and now focuses on supporting program quality throughout the state. "In the position I'm in now, I've been able to learn about the afterschool field in a completely different light by traveling and seeing how different programs operate and facilitate their offerings."
Gomez says the experience of receiving the award, being recognized in AfterSchool Today, and traveling across the country for NAA Annual Convention was a huge motivator to continue his career in afterschool programming.
"Having the opportunity to be recognized for the work I was doing in my community at a national scale was something I didn't know was possible back then," said Gomez. "Now that I'm a part of the Utah Afterschool Network, I'm starting to understand the vastness of the network of afterschool providers across the country."
His hope is that he can pass that same inspiration and motivation to other young people that have started their career in the afterschool field.
"To the young folk: You can do it!"
Nominations for NAA’s Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2021 opens October 27! Information on the nominations will be posted here.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for AfterSchool Today.
Photo courtesy of Angel Gomez.