|Gonzalo Manzo is a Cool Counselor
Robin Lisa Savinar
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
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!