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Gonzalo Manzo is a Cool Counselor

By Robin Lisa Savinar

Gonzalo Manzo is a Texas native of Mexican descent. He was the second of six siblings born into the Manzo family. Gonzalo's parents moved to California when he was a boy. His father was determined to teach his children Spanish despite the fact their mother wanted them to use only English. Gonzalo is glad his father won that battle because today he uses Spanish in his work as a vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor for the blind. As a visually impaired individual himself, Gonzalo is a great role model for young Latinos going through VR. He also has a great sense of humor and is constantly cracking jokes and laughing about life and experiences.

With a bachelor's degree in psychology, Gonzalo began his career as a benefits counselor at CRIL - Community Resources for Independent Living in Hayward, California. He then worked at the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley, California, for several years, and is currently the senior vocational rehabilitation counselor for the blind and visually impaired at the VR office for the Mount Diablo Delta district in California.

When Gonzalo talks about his work it is obvious that he loves it. Gonzalo works with visually impaired individuals and people who have multiple disabilities to facilitate their journeys through the VR track. Often he initiates multi-year relationships with individuals while they are young and naïve. And he says it's hard not to let the relationships get too personal, especially when many consumers he works with stop by to let him know what they're up to and to see how he's doing. Gonzalo often assists consumers until he sees them through college and become self-sustaining employed individuals.

Nevertheless, Gonzalo doesn't measure the success of his consumers by the number who complete post-secondary education or secure successful careers. He believes people must set their own goals and definition of success. Says Gonzalo, "for me success is the individual's discovery of a personal journey."

Gonzalo's own personal journey certainly qualifies him as a success, but he's too busy helping others admire the accomplishments of his own journey. But Gonzalo does like to hearken on one highlight of his career: the time he was asked to represent the Berkeley CIL at a national benefits and welfare rights event while the Clinton administration was in office. You go Gonzalo!