by Ari Richman, Sun Devil Media Relations Summer Intern
It’s your senior year in college.
Do you kick back, relax and enjoy your last year?
Do you panic in search of a job?
Or do you take it all on: helping your team reach a 66-5 record, winning their first NCAA National Championship, and receiving the Pac-10 scholar-athlete of the year award?
Sun Devil softball outfielder Jackie Vasquez (B.A.E. Special Education, 2008) chose the last option.
SPOILER ALERT: Vasquez successfully achieves all three of these goals.
Although Vasquez completed her stellar senior year of 2007-08 with a NCAA title, the Special Education major “was very fortunate to have part of my graduate education paid for by the Pac-10 because of my post-graduate scholarship.”
She went on to University of Missouri for graduate school, and graduated this past May with a Masters degree in Education.
Looking back on college at Arizona State today, Vasquez wouldn’t change a thing.
Being a Sun Devil student-athlete “prepared me by improving my skills of time management. I had to be at weights at 6 a.m., class at 8 a.m., practice at 2 p.m., home work at 7 p.m. and somewhere in between you had to sleep, eat and have a social life,” says Vasquez, a graduate of Catalina Foothills.
In addition, the pressures and deadlines she encountered as a student-athlete become second nature, making it much easier to handle them in her current job. Jackie also noted that “having been a successful student-athlete has given me the confidence to walk into job interviews knowing I have the dedication and desire to any job put in front of me. I also believe that employers look at my resume and see the fact that I was a student-athlete and succeed both on the field and in the classroom...this shows them that I can handle a lot of pressure, time manager, be a leader and a team player.”
Vasquez credits her Sun Devil experience with helping to build her capabilities and character on and off the field. “The high expectations and demands made me the person I am today.”
While enrolled at ASU, Vasquez foresaw teaching as her career. In her current role, she’s not a teacher but she utilizes her teaching skills as a trainer. Just as she wouldn’t change anything about her college experience, she certainly wouldn’t change anything about her job with Gabriel’s Angels. (http://www.gabrielsangels.org/)
After starting out as a volunteer in the organization, where she helped in a domestic abuse shelter and worked with the kids who had to leave their homes because of an unsafe environment, the former Arizona State softball star has moved into a larger role with the organization.
Today, Vasquez is the Southern Arizona Volunteer manager for this Phoenix-based non-profit organization. Gabriel’s Angels serves 13,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Arizona through the application of innovative pet therapy. The program’s goal is to increase the overall sense of well-being and happiness for children in a safe environment, and to build critical core behaviors among these children, such as trust, empathy, respect, tolerance and self-esteem.
Gabriel’s Angels has nearly 150 registered volunteer Therapy Teams and 40 Helping Hands delivering pet therapy to over 100 agencies. All services are free of charge to the agency and the children. The therapy assisted activities are provided by the Pet Therapy Team, typically consisting of a companion dog and his/her owner. Gabriel’s Angels believes that the bond between a therapy dog and a child is strong enough to break the cycle of violence.
As the Southern Arizona Volunteer Manager, Vasquez’s responsibilities are to train and recruit volunteers who actively serve in Arizona crisis nurseries, domestic violence and homeless shelters, group homes, residential treatment programs, and targeted school programs.
Confucius’s quote “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” fully describes Vasquez’s job today.
“I honestly feel like I have a DREAM JOB because I get to make a direct impact on the kids of Arizona while getting to work with awesome volunteers and dogs.”
Helping children runs in her family, as her greatest inspiration in college had similar aspirations: her mom. Jackie’s mom had a dream to go to school and work with kids. However, she gave it all up to be a mom. Her mom showed an endless amount of support for Jackie, and Jackie saw her role with Gabriel’s Angels as a way “to fulfill her (mom’s) dream of graduating college and helping kids.” She will continue to pursue their common dream in the future. Vasquez wants to continue to make a huge impact on her community to give kids a fighting chance to have the opportunity to be anything they want to be.
Another inspirational figure for Vasquez at Arizona State was Karl Kuehl, the team’s mental coach during her senior year. “He put life into perspective and taught me as soon as I let go of the small things, big things would happen. I took that advice to heart and had the best season of my career and was an All-American. Not knowing at the time that Karl was dying of cancer... it really makes you look at life differently.”
Outside of work, the retired softball outfielder has taken up running and ran her first full marathon this past December. She is currently training to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2015. Even though she no longer plays softball competitively, Vasquez gives lessons and host camps. “This way I can give back to young girls and get that softball fix when I start to miss it.”
A 2008 Arizona State graduate, a member of the 2008 Arizona State softball national championship team, the 2008 Pac-10 softball Scholar-Athlete of the year, current Southern Arizona Volunteer Manager for Gabriel’s Angels, and aspiring Boston Marathon runner. Giving back while moving forward.
This is Sun Devil and NCAA champion. Jackie Vasquez.