This past year, the VSP welcomed two new, full-time staff members, Nick and Carla, to the team. Both came to the program through very different avenues, each bringing a unique skill set to our growing organization.
Nick came to us by way of New Jersey, our nation’s most beloved state. Within moments of meeting him, you will surely pick up on his accent, particularly if hot dogs are being discussed. Nick has a long history with Valparaíso and Chile in general, coming here first as a study abroad student in 2011. Having heard about the VSP from a “large blonde guy” while surfing near Valparaíso, Nick decided to join the team as a volunteer. In the seven years since, after graduating from Stockton University, Nick has returned to Chile on various surf trips and worked as an English teacher in Valparaíso for a period of time. Over the years, he has primarily worked as a special education Spanish teacher, cross country coach, surf shop manager, and surf instructor in his beautiful home state. After a particularly fruitful surf trip to the South of Chile and an itch to return to the VSP, Nick made the permanent move down last January. We’re stoked he did!
Nick is an encyclopedia of nearly every wave in Chile and has a wealth of experience and knowledge that have taken our surf programming to the next level. He has the energy and demeanor to motivate even our most timid students and has pushed them to expand their comfort zones and acquire new skills. If you’re familiar with our Instagram page, then you’ve surely seen his animated, bearded face teaching the finer points of popping up on a board or pronouncing vocabulary in English. His infectious energy is obvious even in these snapshots.
Recently, he has expanded our surf programming to include GROM sessions for our more advanced students. These sessions allow for one on one instruction in more advanced waves to expand the skill set and knowledge of our older students. Doing so will allow them to pursue the sport more seriously in the future and will allow us to expand our network of instructors as the program progresses. These groms will become mentors and teachers for our younger students, creating a self sustaining cycle of Chilean mentors and mentees as we move forward.
Carla, on the other hand, came to us by way of Valparaíso. Although she grew up in Chile’s south, having lived in Valpo for more than twelve years, she considers herself a porteña. Carla originally moved here to study at Universidad de Valparaíso, but after completing her degree in social work, decided to stay. She has more than ten years of experience working with kids in family intervention centers, recreational workshops, schools, and support institutions in a variety of different roles. Her work has supported families, communities, and individuals seeking housing, government benefits, protection from social vulnerability, and other forms of psychosocial counseling. Her insight has allowed us to more closely understand the context of our children’s lives, having worked with many struggling communities in the area and will continue to expand our social work through various workshops, events, and systems. To say she is a kind, selfless person would be a gross understatement. Carla is incredibly adept at speaking with and helping people from all walks of life, utilizing her calm demeanor and wealth of experience in myriad situations.
Carla first came to the organization in 2014, as a friend of our director, Claudio. She volunteered throughout the next few years, getting to know the students of VSP through our regular surf sessions. She, like many of us, has had a deep and fruitful relationship with the sea. While most of us partake of the ocean on boards, Carla prefers to swim, having swam in southern Chile’s lakes throughout her childhood. In the past several months, she has formed a close relationship between the VSP and Water(wo)man Chile, an organization dedicated to water safety education. Through this relationship, we were able to hold two courses for our students, covering general water safety, CPR, and surf rescue techniques. Her influence has allowed us to hone in on our message and find new, important ways to engage our students with the ocean and their communities more generally.
Carla is passionate about learning and is excited to continue learning from everybody around her. She can almost always be found with a new book close at hand and never stops expanding her perspective of the world and her country. Working with our students has been immensely positive for her and often makes her feel like a kid again. She is truly one of the loveliest humans you could ever hope to meet and an inspirational person to work with. Thanks for joining the team, Carla!
Both Carla and Nick have made an immediately huge impact on our programming, expanding the reach of our work inside and outside of the water. Their infectious energy and passion have translated to new partnerships, workshops, and future goals that will allow the program to improve annually. This positive energy has translated to improved surfing, water safety standards, and community involvement in ways that are hard to quantify or convey. Thanks Carla and Nick! We will be profiling staff members throughout the next months so stay tuned to learn more about the team.