Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Payroll tech draws on experience as art grad to connect with students

Yvette Macy
With a penchant for costumes and a flair for adding panache to any event, payroll technician Yvette Macy is known for a well-honed sense of fun.

But equal to this is a more serious side: a commitment to her job and helping students succeed. For that, the six-year employee of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is the latest recipient of the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award, a recognition given each quarter to an outstanding staff member.

Whether it’s directing crowds during commencement exercises or helping to staff information booths at Grossmont College at each semester’s start, Macy is front and center when it comes to supporting students. Her efforts on their behalf, as well as fellow employees as an active member of the Classified Senate, are widely known and appreciated, say those who nominated her for the award.

At Tuesday night’s Governing Board meeting, Macy received an engraved acrylic award, a Barnes & Noble gift certificate and a lunch with district Chancellor Cindy L. Miles and Governing Board President Bill Garrett.

A 2013 graduate of Grossmont College, Macy brings a unique student perspective to aspects of her job. Conversely, she’s able to put the knowledge gained as a classified, or non-teaching, staffer to use helping students.  When she encountered a struggling student in a ceramics class she took as an art major, Macy helped him with his work and directed him to the tutoring center for additional assistance, according to the award nomination form.

“Yvette directs students to the correct departments (for help) and informs them of events happening throughout the district and services that students may not know about,” reads the nomination.

Further, Macy has been a champion of classified staff gaining recognition and representation in shared governance at the colleges and district levels. She is credited with introducing the Star Award, a plaudit for district workers.

Miles said that the commitment of workers like Macy is deeply felt and appreciated.

 “To have such excellent workers serving students and others is valued beyond measure,” Miles said.

Macy, who grew up in the East County, said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the large crowd on hand at the time her award was initially announced. As is customary, a conga line of well-wishers had made its way across campus, led by Miles and employees carrying a large Classified Senate banner.

“It was a wonderful feeling,” Macy said. “It made me tear up. I care about where I work, and I care about people.”

Hired in 2007 to the district payroll department, Macy previously worked as an independent real estate contractor until falling victim to a plummeting market.

The El Cajon Valley High School alum lives in Lakeside with her husband, Glenn – a Grossmont College custodian -- and two sons, Wade, 14, and Luke, 7.

Creative calling

As a payroll tech, Macy knows a thing or two about numbers, but at heart she is an artist, an interest sparked when she received an award for a Wild Animal Park drawing she created in middle school that was featured in a zoo promotional publication. She is an art docent at her children’s schools and, as a member of the San Diego Polymer Art Guild, each summer demonstrates polymer clay at the San Diego County Fair. She transforms empty medicine bottles into what she calls Bottles of Hope – miniature art pieces given to cancer patients.  She aspires to a career in art therapy, and is finishing a smattering of classes needed to transfer to a four-year university.

“When I met with counselors to discuss completing my degree, they discouraged me from pursuing art, saying they are cutting art teachers and there no jobs out there for artists,” she said. “I could tell you my heart sank, but I’ve heard all this before.”

Macy broadened her career scope from teaching to art therapy, noting that art has been known to help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, as well as those suffering from grief and trauma.

A singer, dancer and actor for years as a child in community theater, Macy has fond memories of appearing on local television and in parades.

“In the third grade, I brought home a flier to my mom and told her I wanted to audition for the East County Performing Arts Center for Children. She was shocked because I was so shy I used to hide behind my mom and hold onto her leg,” Macy said. “What may surprise people is that shyness I had as a kid never really left despite being in front of audiences. I still feel sick and  nervous  – like stage fright.”

While known for painting paper murals and creating other office decorations with élan, Macy is also the go-to person whenever a gathering calls for a character in costume. She was the Santa for a district holiday luncheon in December and one year dressed up as the Easter Bunny, hopping from office to office giving away treats.

She has two large wardrobes kept in the garage filled with costume accoutrements. A snowman, an elf, Capt. Crunch, worker bee and more -- name the character and Macy probably has all the trappings.

“I never miss an opportunity to dress up for a holiday,” she said. "I truly get joy out of volunteering, learning, helping people, and making a difference."