Voices in Our Heads
Community Leader Andrea Sulsona Speaks from Her Heart
Andrea Sulsona is the premiere guest on Voices in Our Heads, a new podcast from palaciomagazine.com. Sulsona is the Executive Director of Early Childhood Education at the Greater Long Beach YMCA. Andrea Sulsona is also the past publisher of our original namesake, Palacio De Long Beach.
PalacioMagazine.com recently sat down with Andrea Sulsona in a Bixby Knolls office for a wide-ranging discussion about her interesting story about growing up in Southern California and New York with side trips to Puerto Rico and Greece.
Andrea Sulsona and Early Childhood
Ms. Sulsona was born and raised in southern California. “I have deep roots and family in California, but I also spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico.” Her grandmother, who raised her, came to California in 1961. She had lots of family that she liked to visit in Puerto Rico, according to Sulsona.
“She would take me back with her to Puerto Rico in the summers. So, I had this wonderful time that I would travel every summer and be with extended family, getting to know the other side of my roots.”
Andrea Sulsona also lived for a time in New York. “After I graduated from UCLA, I had no obligations and decided that it was a perfect time to spread my wings and try living in a big city and I had fallen in love with the city after having done an internship in Washington, D.C. and traveling up to New York city.”
New York and then, there was Greece
She went to New York in 1999 and spent about ten years there, living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan.
“It was wonderful. Back to my Puerto Rican roots, I finally felt like I was surrounded by my family and extended family, the community, the Puerto Rican community is just so prevalent in New York City…I felt very connected to that.”
Andrea Sulsona loved the city’s diversity and vibrancy. “I was young and full of energy and willing to probably put up with more than I am this stage in my life.”
Living in different countries and cities impacted Sulsona. “Certainly, it forces you to grow and exposes you to so many different types of people. I used to describe New York city as like the entire world condensed into this tiny island.”
She was exposed to so many new cultures and lifestyles in that city. This, despite having grown up in a major metropolitan city, Los Angeles.
And then there was Greece.
“I did a study abroad in Greece…I spent a summer in Greece. I did some traveling in Europe subsequent to my study abroad.” Andrea Sulsona has a great appreciation for travel because, as she says, “Every time I stepped on different soil, I was just growing.”
Following 9/11 in New York, she would go to work for an education company. “I loved the work I was doing because I was helping people to express themselves and to process their feelings about September 11.”
That experience led her to becoming an “educator of educators.” “I was helping them to develop professionally.”
Andrea Sulsona Comes Home
Sulsona would eventually return to southern California and Long Beach after her grandmother passed away. “I felt my grandfather needed me. They had raised me together and I was ready to come back and do my duty and help him.”
She was able to maintain her employment with the New York education company, traveling one week a month and still care for her grandfather.
Andrea Sulsona’s life took a different path after the traveling was over. Encouraged by those that said she would make a good salesperson, she decides to get her real estate license. That new path connected her with the magazine, Palacio de Long Beach.
A Different Path. A New Direction.
Originally conceptualized as a real estate magazine with versions in different cities, Sulsona soon took the helm of the Long Beach edition. It soon evolved from a magazine selling real estate ads and articles about first time buyers to something much more.
“I had friends who worked in the health industry and friends that worked in education and I decided that’s who I wanted to include.”
Although not trained as a journalist, Sulsona didn’t let that stop her. “Well, you know, I’m a big believer in dive right in and wing it.” Her writing skills, along with her ability to “…surround herself…” with people who are better than her, as well as listening to ideas from others, pushed Palacio De Long Beach forward.
For Sulsona, there’s not just one memory about publishing the magazine. “The memories that come to mind are the bringing together of people. It’s sort of bridge building.”
Palacio de Long Beach was a bilingual magazine. For Andrea Sulsona, she was excited to bring together monolingual Spanish and English speakers in the magazine’s pages. “It was the feedback from people who were excited to read and learn a second language.”
Eventually, demands of a new job resulted in the difficult decision to hand-off Palacio De Long Beach to this writer, Antonio Ruiz, who would go on to move it into the digital age.
Andrea Sulsona Finds a New Calling
Andrea Sulsona is now Executive Director for Early Child Education for the Greater Long Beach YMCA. “I oversee five pre-school locations. Funding comes from the state of California. So, we serve low income families.” The Y, according to Sulsona, gives families an opportunity to go to work and leave their children in a high quality safe environment.
“Gives them that peace of mind and help to prepare their children in the most important years, the first five years of a child’s life.”
Sulsona explains how those years are important because that’s when 90 percent of their brain connections are happening. For those parents with young children not yet in school, Sulsona offers this advice. “Well, learning definitely starts in the womb. This is why people play classical music and talk to their children before they’re out of the womb.”
Speaking with your child is important. “Speaking to them in language, not in baby babble. Speaking and singing, playing with them, interacting with them.”
And don’t even think about introducing technology to young children as a form of entertainment. “No iPads. Let’s hold off on that.”
“Just spending time together. Those interactions, consistent interactions, are critical. Read to your child every single day. Make it like something you won’t compromise on doing.”
The responsibility extends to other caregivers who may interact with your child, whether a relative or a friend. “Your child is counting on you to advocate for them and don’t ever feel guilty if you are making sure that the environment, that you’re popping in at different times of the day, that the environment is up to your standards.”
Andrea Sulsona is optimistic
She’s optimistic about the future of the Latino community in Long Beach.
“Well, I think you just really need to look at where we’ve come from and where we are now.” She then counts off some of the accomplishments including the first Latino Mayor of Long Beach, other Latinos coming to positions of leadership, and the reality that Latinos are a hard working people. “And I am sure that we will take positions of leadership and to be a part of shaping the community.”