Vice President for Advancement, YMCA of Orange County
"From the start, SHS helped me in my career. I applied what I learned every day."
“Have you thought about getting your master’s degree?” Dolores Marikian’s supervisor at the YMCA of Orange, California, asked one day. That simple question put into motion a pivotal shift in Marikian’s career path. It led to Springfield College School of Human Services, where Marikian came to understand her true career passion.
From a teacher of young children, Marikian transitioned to a rising career as a YMCA executive, leader in community organizations, and recipient of American Business Woman of the Year Award and the Woman of Courage Award.
"It was amazing. The weekend schedule complemented my life. I earned college credit for my previous experience and education. The students and faculty became like a brotherhood, encouraging me to go on."
About 15 years ago, Marikian had completed her bachelor’s degree in child development at a local college. Though she was firmly committed to work that she loved with children, the SHS program that her supervisor described piqued Marikian’s interest. The YMCA would pay half, and Marikian decided that, with classes one weekend a month, she could study during evenings and still give her all to her job.
As Marikian attended classes with adults who had years of experience in a wide range of human services positions, her eyes were opened to the far-reaching impact that organizations can have on communities. As students explored issues, Marikian learned from their in-depth experiences in many spheres. “From the start, it helped me in my career. I applied what I learned every day,” she said.
“The prospect of having an impact on the entire community really sparked my interest. I loved the idea of effecting change on a grand scale.
“One of the great strengths of the YMCA is that it is large enough to work with many community partners to deliver a wide scope of services – health and wellness, child development, sports and more. Still, it has the flexibility to create new programs for specific community needs. There are so many opportunities and career paths within the Y. SHS opened me to all other aspects of Y work. I branched out,” she said.
Marikian went on to become chief executive officer of the YMCA of Orange and is credited for guiding it to a financially sound position, developing multiple collaborations, building a strong board of directors, and leading an outstanding staff. Today, she is vice president of advancement for the YMCA of Orange County, which has assets of more than $21 million and serves more than 50,000 people annually. Its programs are in youth development and sports, afterschool care, camps, health and wellness, recreation, community services and scholarships.
Her impact is community-wide, and she has served in leadership positions in Rotary, Sorpotimist International, Triangle Terrace Senior Living Complex, Toastmasters International, and La Purisima Catholic School.
“A lot of people helped me in my career,” Marikian says. “Today, I’m more satisfied professionally because I see the larger picture – what more is possible, where we can be, and how I can help drive the Y to larger goals.”
Her advice to working adults who are considering taking the big step of pursuing higher education is, “Find out where your passion lies…there are so many opportunities.”