By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
The new site supervisor at the 4S Ranch Boys & Girls Club recently arrived with more than a decade of youth-related work experience.
Jon Rios said he started his career with children as a 17-year-old working at the Boys & Girls Club in National City.
After various positions with other youth-related programs including being a teen mentor at South Bay Community Services, working at the school run by the county office of education for youths in the juvenile court system, and most recently developing a violence prevention program in Escondido, Rios has returned to the Boys & Girls Club organization.
“I’ve always found it really enlightening (working with youths),” Rios said. “I learn more from them than they learn from me.
“It’s awesome that I get to be someone they look up to for direction, as an example,” he said.
Rios said when one’s career entails “having fun most of the day, that is great.”
The San Diego native said he studied sociology at the University of California San Diego, which helps him when working with children and teens in after-school programs.
Rios said his goal is to provide leadership opportunities along with other life lessons to children who come to the club, rather than have just supervised play as was the case at the recreation center he attended as a youth.
“When I found out there was structure here, it was exciting,” Rios said. “It’s more than just recreation. So much more (focus) on education and even recreation (activities are) educational.”
He said when members play games, those games are designed to build character and self-esteem. Through a rotation system, children end up trying activities they might otherwise shy away from.
“(Years ago) only kids who loved sports were in the gym, or those who were big enough (to play),” he said. “Now all participate due to rotation.”
Besides learning about sports, members learn about the arts and have time to complete homework.
Rios said he is also very focused on maintaining a 20-to-1 ratio between children and staff members, because a higher ratio for the kindergarten through eighth-graders means the children do not get enough supervision.
Providing a quality after-school program at the club is more than just a job for Rios since his son, Eric, a kindergartner at Turtleback Elementary, is also one of the club members.
“As a parent, hearing a parent is directing this place raises the standard,” he said. “I tell the staff to treat the kids like they are your own. That is literally true for me.”
Rios said he also occasionally asks Eric if he has fun in certain rooms or with particular activities. If he says yes, that means they are working.
The 4S Ranch Boys & Girls Club, 16118 4S Ranch Parkway, has 130-150 members attend its after-school program daily. They come from Westwood and Turtleback elementaries in Rancho Bernardo, and Monterey Ridge and Stone Ranch elementaries and Oak Valley Middle School in 4S Ranch. Busing is offered from all but Stone Ranch, which is a short walk’s distance.