by Meghan Lamb

On my first day as an Esperanza employee last November, I was greeted with words I will never forget. Standing outside the main office, unsure where to go or quite what to do with myself, I waited for someone to give me further direction. The first person I encountered was the prolific writer, artist, and Coleridge participant Bobby Tirelli.

Bobby met me with a warm smile and a firm, confident handshake.

“Welcome to Esperanza, sister,” he said. “Welcome to the family.”

Every work day since has felt like a family gathering to me. The sweet smells of fudge, cookies, and brownies perfume the halls. A group of participants giggles as they greet staff with high-fives and hugs.

Students often refer to each other as “brother” and “sister.”

 It doesn’t hurt the staff perceive Esperanza as a home away from home, and many have been a part of the Esperanza family for 10, 15, and even 20-plus years!

Though each staff member has his or her own unique testimonial, everyone seems to provide the same reason for staying: the wonderful students and participants, their one-of-a-kind personalities, and the unequivocal joy of watching each one continue to grow developmentally and academically. This year, I’m looking forward to helping Esperanza continue to grow with the launch of the new WorkReady program, which will help adult participants continue to develop the vocational skills needed to be more independent in our community.