Some folks are best described as blessed. Among that lucky crew of individuals there are those whom, while counting their blessings, pay it forward—and that, in a nutshell, is what Nilsa Velazquez is all about.
Nilsa was born in Puerto Rico in 1949. Her father Antonio was a contractor, her mother, Bienvenida, a housewife. Nilsa was the youngest of four daughters.
“I’d say were started off poor but my father was driven and we climbed the social ladder as the years progressed. I don’t recall ever wanting for anything.”
Nilsa’s childhood was idyllic, nurturing parents, a strong sisterhood and despite being the youngest of four, the youth had quite the commanding presence. In Kindergarten Nilsa was left in charge of the class when the teacher left the room. She was director of the youth program in her 7th Day Adventist Church (pre-teen) and ultimately became the church pianist and led a church Christian music group by the age of sixteen.
“Despite my leadership and social skills I was very much a late bloomer. I had little ambition beyond the moment, and I was quite the good girl as far as teen-romance was concerned—I took my church very seriously.
“Other than the 1-year of boarding school at thirteen, an experience my father bestowed on all of his daughters, I was very much a homebody—comfortable with the status quo and in no great hurry to leave the nest.”
As high school came to a close Nilsa began to ponder the process of moving on—a career in teaching struck her fancy. The top tier student enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico (which allowed her the continued luxury of living at home) where she majored in education with a minor in math.
Ah, but then the love bug struck our innocent heroine.
“When I was twenty and still enrolled at the University, I visited my Aunt in New York, and that’s when I met Hector. We actually met in church. He was my age and had served in the United States Army—he’d seen action in Vietnam.”
It was indeed a mutual case of love at first sight, and when it was time for
Nilsa to return to Puerto Rico Hector followed.
God has been good to me. I have received so much and have tried to return the blessings to both my family and the children of the families for which I am both devoted and responsible.
“We were married in 1971. I graduated in May and was betrothed in June. At that point Hector enrolled in the University while I took on a teaching job.
“My first job was at Puerto Rico Junior College, where I taught early childhood education courses—focusing on child development and associated areas of learning for kids ranging from two-years-old to five-years-old.”
In 1974 after having just completed her Master’s Degree, Nilsa and Hector welcomed their first child—Laritza.
“We started a family and planned on growing it. Hector felt it best we move to the United States and we wasted no time. A week prior to Hector’s graduation Laritza and I flew to Miami. Hector was on a plane hours after finishing his final exam—he didn’t even bother with the graduation ceremony.”
The family of three stayed with Nilsa’s sister for the first few weeks, but the ever independent Hector quickly found lodgings for his new family in a Miami apartment complex. He also found work with the County. Meanwhile, Nilsa found a job as director of childcare at the newly opened Holy Cross Day Care Center in Wynwood.
And Nilsa never left—she’s currently President/CEO…
The business model for the Holy Cross Day Care Center was that a sponsoring organization pulled the strings. They received County, State and Federal monies to run the operation.
It didn’t take Nilsa long (roughly three-years) to figure out things could run smoother and more efficiently if the “middle-man” was cut out.
“I pushed for hegemony. We incorporated. Ultimately those with hands-on diligence received the funding directly. From that point on we took off!”
In short order Nilsa became a community advocate and game-changer dealing with dozens of organizations involved with children, the elderly, crime prevention, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPW), the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of South Florida, et al.
In 1978 Nilsa and Hector had their first son, Aram—born on the 4th of July. In 1985 a second son, Jason, made his debut and two years later sister Nicole arrived, rounding out the brood. She has a grandson, Anthony (23) and a granddaughter, Nina (5 months).
In 1992 Holy Cross was renamed KIDCO Child Care Inc. (as it is to this day). Nilsa is still the driving force behind this morphing and growing community success story. KIDCO now boasts 5 locations—one in Wynwood, three in Little Haiti and another in Hialeah—serving close to 400 children annually from infants to 5-years of age.
Nilsa and her associates have woven together a network of sponsors as wide reaching as RIF (Reading is Fundamental) to the State of Florida United States Department of Agriculture Child Care Nutrition Program.
KIDCO is an “accredited early care and education program which upholds the standards set by the National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs Accreditation. Funds assist KIDCO in providing child care services in a ‘Gold Seal’ facility to families who fit the ‘working poor’ classification and need support from social service agencies.”
“God has been good to me,” Nilsa says without pause. “I have received so much and have tried to return the blessings to both my family and the children of the families which I am both devoted and responsible for.”
Latinarrific salutes Nilsa Velazquez!