Staff Spotlight: Susan Mathieu
Interview with Dr. Susan Mathieu, Senior Adult Program Coordinator
When Susan Mathieu was a teenager, her family came to the JCC pool every day. She loved growing up here at the J, and she participated in the teen programs, including camp and Summer Stock (she was in Bye Bye Birdie where she had one line!). In those days, the teens had a senate which trained them for leadership roles in the community. “The senate program was my foundation for leadership. I was also a camp counselor for five summers when we had the resident camp, Camp Kadimah. There was a program called CLEW, (Center Leadership Educational Workshop) where they taught the teens to be leaders. We traveled to different Jewish centers throughout the southwest and stayed in people’s homes, and they would come here and stay with us. It was a great exchange program.
“I believe that as a professor at CSU Long Beach, I used many of the techniques and tenets of leadership that I learned here in all these programs. My sons Daniel and Joseph both went to camp here, and I was thrilled when Daniel joined the AJCC board of directors last year. The continuity is great. In fact, many of the friendships I made here as a teenager, I still have as my friends.”
Susan went to CSULB for her BA in Recreation Administration and her MS in Recreational Therapy. After she graduated, she worked at a Family Counseling center for children who had been abused. “Then I was recruited to teach a class, and at that point I returned to school for my doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of La Verne. I taught at both Cal State Long Beach and CSU Dominguez Hills for 17 years.
“When I retired from CSULB in May of 2009, a friend told me there was an opening in the Senior Adult department at the J, and I was lucky enough to get the position, and I began working in June.” When Susan began, it was a very small program and only about 15 -20 people came to lunch. “Working with Susan Paletz,” Susan explains, “we have been very successful in building the program. We average about 60-75 people weekly now. And for our special events, such as New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, we will sometimes have 200 adults!
“One of my favorite programs is the Happiness & Humor Group that meets the first Friday of every month. It’s really popular, and we have people from all over the Greater Long Beach area attend. Sometimes we’ve had as many as 70 participants. The Seniors come and they make friends and many people leave going out to lunch and making play dates. It’s fantastic.
“I feel so fortunate in my position to feel free to take risks with new programs. Jeffrey Rips and Susan Paletz encourage me to go where my vision takes me. And I have a great adult team with Shlomit Jackson and Ronnie Levine. They have made it possible for me to expand the program a little more each year. When Jeffrey comes into my programs, I love introducing him to my participants and letting them know that I couldn’t do what I do without the support of Jeffrey and the Board of Directors. The AJCC has had such a profound influence on me. It has given me my foundation for life, for being a part of a community, for being kind, and for advocacy.”
Susan is affiliated with Congregation Ner Tamid in Palos Verdes and she volunteers there leading caregiver support groups. She is married with two sons and lives in Seal Beach.