Ellis Jamaica Plain’s inaugural Director, Yaskara Cruz is so grateful to have landed in a perfect place for her career and her life.
Yaskara was born in Guatemala and received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education there. She wanted to help children in her native country, but when life there became dangerous, Yaskara came to the United States. Yaskara was 24 years old, spoke minimal English, and needed to start her life over again.
Yaskara worked as a housekeeper and a nanny for Spanish-speaking families and pushed herself to learn English and take courses to qualify for work in early education and care (EEC). Before long, Yaskara became an assistant in a large family childcare home and learned so much there that she was able to open her own family childcare some years later. The center was a true success for over ten years, and Yaskara was proud of what she’d created.
Then a health crisis upset Yaskara’s plans. When Yaskara was diagnosed with cancer, she had to close her center. But when her health recovered, Yaskara completed her certification as an EEC director. Before long, she secured her first administrative job at a YMCA in Lynn. She later became an Assistant Director at New Sunrise Preschool, which featured a Spanish immersion program.
This work was gratifying and drew on the different parts of Yaskara’s training and experience. But once again, a health crisis intervened. When her husband lost his kidney transplant as a result of COVID-19, Yaskara looked for an administrative job with health benefits. Ellis soon contacted her about a job for a bilingual Director in English and Spanish to open a new center in Jamaica Plain (JP). The role seemed ideal!
Each Ellis interview was a positive and encouraging experience. The last interview, with Ellis CEO Lauren Cook, forged an immediate connection. Lauren talked about her time in the Peace Corps in Guatemala and began speaking with Yaskara in Spanish. “Yaskara was fully qualified for the role, and her compassion was inspiring. The fact that Guatemala was once home to both of us was a special bonus,” Lauren says.
Yaskara started at Ellis months before the JP center opened, and that time was a gift. She began as a lead teacher at 66 Berkeley and then became Acting Director there. This time built Yaskara’s relationships at Ellis and steeped her in the Ellis culture. As she helped staff the JP center and welcome new families and children, Yaskara knew how to create the warm, nurturing, and professional Ellis environment she had come to love.
When Yaskara suffered another blow after her husband’s health continued to decline, Ellis was there for her. “Whenever I felt alone, Ellis offered a hand to me. I realized how much Ellis is focused on all families – not only for our children but for our employees too. I thank God I found my way to Ellis.”