Kony Brizuela literally has grown up with MHP. Her family moved to Pembridge Square Apartments when she was a 3rd-grader. Kony enrolled in MHP afterschool enrichment programs for elementary school students and then volunteered as a teacher’s assistant as she grew older, eventually working for MHP as an Americorps service member.
Today, she is the site coordinator at MHP’s Glenville Road community program for young students. After more than six years in that role, she says, “I love what I do.” But it hasn’t been an easy road.
Looking back, “I was a little troublemaker,” she says with a rueful smile. Under the guidance of MHP Senior Program Manager Cleydi Pacheco, young Kony settled down. The support also helped her deal with academic challenges. Her parents assumed she struggled in school due to a language barrier and it would get better in time. But eventually, Kony was diagnosed with dyslexia in 6th grade, and she got the help she needed.
Throughout her growing up years, MHP staff “guided me through my difficult times.” She noted that “I grew up very low income,” but didn’t fully recognize it at the time. She realizes now how hard her parents worked to shield her from feeling the strain. “My parents found a way to give us what we wanted.”
In fact, her mom’s strict rules are what drove Kony to MHP in the first place. Her mother, who still lives in an MHP property, insisted that Kony enroll in MHP afterschool programs rather than do something social with friends. During her teen-age years, her only option aside from school sports was to volunteer at Amherst and Pembridge Square. Volunteering at MHP “was my escape.”
Over time, it also gave her life-long friends who she now considers her extended family. After high school graduation, Kony was accepted as an AmeriCorps intern at MHP and then officially joined the MHP staff as Glenville Road site coordinator. Kony worked hard to earn a certificate in Early Childhood Education and aspires to complete a college degree over the next few years, pushing herself to reach the next level while recognizing it won’t be easy.
She is a resilient optimist: “I was put here to make things possible.” From helping create an active community to facilitating pre-school classes and afterschool tutoring programs, Kony has been an important influence shaping the lives of MHP residents. “Coming from a low-income family myself, I understand what they go through,” she says. “I went through the same struggles and so I do my best to provide services to help meet their needs.”