As I looked for a staff member to interview for this month’s spotlight, I couldn’t think of anyone better than the friendly face we encounter every day in Peterson Student Center. I sat down with Charlene Sanchez, one of our switchboard operators, to learn more about her history at St. John’s and about herself. Charlene is and continues to be the person who helps us with transferring our calls to different offices, welcoming and directing our guests, receiving and time stamping seminar essays, and of course sending someone to open the door when we lock ourselves out!
Where were you born?
I was born and have continued to live in Santa Fe, on Garcia St. down the street from St. John’s.
How long have you been working at St. John’s for?
This upcoming May will make my sixth year working at Switchboard.
How did you find St. John’s?
I am the sixth one in my family to have worked for St. John’s. My grandfather ran security in 1964, when the school first opened. My two uncles worked for my grandfather also doing security. My mother worked at Switchboard for about ten years and my sister worked in the admissions office. Working here has been one of my three dream jobs.
What do you enjoy about your role here at St. John’s?
I love being able to help anyone who needs it—to be a familiar face that people can go to for advice, directions, or questions [and] serving as the go-to point when people come and visit St. John’s.
Also, a huge part are the interactions with the students, getting to know everyone on a personal level. I learn everyone’s names and different things about them. I’m friends with most students on Facebook and can see what they do for fun on school breaks, and also share what I do for fun.
Have you found a source of comfort in the world by caring for people?
Yes, I always have.
Was there a specific experience in your life that made you realize your inclination towards this role?
My mother opened an answering service and I worked there for 28 years, another dream job of mine. I answered calls for lawyers, doctors, plumbers, and anyone who called for assistance. I learned to determine their point of emergency and assess the help needed. At the same time, I was managing three of my nephews’ Baskin Robbins, two in Santa Fe and one in Española. I managed all the kids who started their first job, and was able to help them build confidence and teach them good customer service skills.
I felt how important it was for me to interact with people more directly and realized that was what I wanted to be doing. I never wanted to be the person behind the phone who no one ever sees.
What is the impact you hope to leave on people?
To let people know that everyone matters. Just doing the littlest thing like “good morning” or “how are you doing,” complimenting them when I notice they are dressed differently from their regular attire. Just being able to give people confidence really helps everyone; you don’t know what someone might be going through. Noticing details about a person or being able to tell they are sad, reaching out, and letting them know I am here for them. An open line of communication makes everyone feel safe.
What has been one of the most life changing experiences that you have faced?
I stopped drinking at the age of 21, I realized that as a person you do not need to drink to have a good time—you can have fun without any substances. It was a valuable lesson for me because I saw the choices people can make when they lose control. I feel a lot more confident about wherever I go and who I am with when I am sober. I feel safe when I go out with friends to concerts and I pick them up and drop them off safely.
By: Cintia Osorio 21′