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Education is Important for RCMA Staff, Too

graduation 2012 circle

RCMA Associate Executive Director Kathy Vega is a great example of how RCMA encourages education not only among its students but also its employees.

After 33 years with RCMA, she is earning her bachelor of science degree this spring. It is the second college degree she has earned.

The oldest of seven children whose parents were migrant farmworkers, Kathy dropped out of school in 10th grade to get a job and help support her family.

Kathy and her siblings had already joined their parents in the fields after school and on weekends starting around age 8. Near their Plant City home, they picked strawberries, oranges, cherry tomatoes, green beans and bell pepper. Every year they traveled to Ohio, Michigan and Idaho to pick tomatoes, pears, potatoes and sugar beets.

When Kathy quit school, she knew she could earn more money doing something other than farm work.

Her younger siblings attended the RCMA child development center in Plant City, so she became an Infant/Toddler Teacher there and later a Family Support Worker.

After eight years, with the encouragement of her manager, Kathy became a Center Coordinator at our Westside location for six years.

She progressed up the management ranks, becoming an Area Coordinator for 10 years, a Regional Director for three years and our Associate Executive Director for the past three years.

As she developed her leadership skills, Kathy knew she also needed the appropriate educational credentials.

Early on she earned her GED and Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, followed by an associate’s degree in early childhood education and management from Polk State College, which took her eight years while going to night classes.

Her new degree is a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education and leadership from Rasmussen University

“As I got promoted into different roles, I felt that education was important because I needed to understand what was expected of me,” Kathy says. “I came from a culture of working in the fields and where a woman cooks and takes care of the children. Thirty-three years ago, I didn’t aspire to go to college. Getting a GED was a great accomplishment for me and I didn’t think past that. Going to college and getting degrees are a celebration.”

She credits her RCMA bosses and mentors for encouraging her both along her career path and toward continuing her education.

“They support you as an employee with professional development opportunities and opportunities for growth,” she says of RCMA.

Kathy also thanks her husband and five children, now grown, for their support as she worked full time and went to school in the evenings.

“RCMA builds skills in our employees that you can use at home, such as trust in yourself that you can articulate to your family,” she notes. Several of her children as well as her younger siblings attended RCMA’s child development centers.

With her experience and education, Kathy is the ideal person to provide oversight of our birth to 5 early childhood education programs in more than 60 centers in 21 Florida counties. She also works with our charter schools team to help our pre-K students transition to Kindergarten and our middle school students move into high school.

“I have lived what RCMA offers. There is a need to help children in poverty in our communities, so we work in a way that all children are on equal footing and ready to learn regardless of culture, background and economic levels.”

Kathy has stayed at RCMA for 33 years because she finds her job very fulfilling.

“I don’t see myself doing anything else. When I’m ready to retire, it will be from RCMA.”