Jessica Ruelas, Friendly Center’s Newly Executive Director

Jessica Ruelas, Friendly Center’s Newly Executive Director

Meet Jessica Ruelas. Friendly Center’s newly appointed Executive Director. Jessica has been working with Friendly Center for 12 years. She started as a Recreation & Education Supervisor where she overseed the after-school programs such as tutoring and recreational activities. It wasn’t long after that, she assumed the Site Coordinator position for Friendly Center’s old location in Placentia for three years. It was during this position she learned what it takes to operate a site, from programs to fostering community relationship to receive more programs and other services for clients. Jessica enjoyed managing the day-to-day tasks and duties, but it was in the programs department where she truly found her niche.

It was Jessica’s mother’s active volunteer work for Friendly Center that led to her family receiving services and becoming a client. At one point, Jessica and a group of her peers were in need of academic guidance. Their parents were struggling translating their children’s homework and could not afford to hire private tutors to help them succeed in their studies. Jessica and her mother voiced these concerns and Friendly Center responded with a solution with what is now known as the After-School Tutoring Program. This program offered students the ability to receive help with their homework when needed, a safe alternative for students to engage with their friends instead of being at home by themselves or in the streets, and created a real sense of community for the students. When Jessica graduated high school, she was accepted into Cal State Fullerton and started working for the City of Orange. At that point, the City of Orange offered an after-school recreation program but did not have the capacity to continue staffing the program. Being that the program was such a need in the community, the city did not want to discontinue it. They decided to give the program, along with the funding, to Friendly Center to continue on the recreation program. The City of Orange employees were given the opportunity to apply for various recreation program positions at Friendly Center, and as it then came to be, Jessica Ruelas was offered her first employment opportunity with Friendly Center as the Recreation & Education Supervisor.

When asked what has kept her here for so long, she expressed her deep commitment to Friendly Center. Jessica truly believes in the mission and vision, and because of how unique it is compared to other organizations, she believes she would not be satisfied working for any other nonprofit. Although she was not expecting this promotion, she is excited and up for the challenge. Jessica embodies the characteristics of what makes Friendly Center great – a love and compassion for the community and those in need – and with that being said, congratulations, Jessica!

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