Sabrinia’s eight-year-old son thinks she owns the aquarium, and everybody works for her. Of course, she’s not the owner, but she has been associated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium for many years. Her involvement with the Aquarium started when she was eight years old. However, her love of things aquatic may have started developing when she was five and selling penny candy at The Depot, a store in her grandparents’ Massachusetts town. Her favorite candy was Swedish fish, a soft and chewy fish-shaped candy.
It all happened because her father and step-mother live in the Monterey area and became volunteers at the aquarium when it was being built 30 plus years ago. When Sabrinia would spend summers with her father, she would go to the aquarium with him when he volunteered. She became a volunteer at age 12, the youngest ever to complete the Aquarium’s guide program at that time. She helped visitors from around the world to explore the wonders of Monterey Bay and beyond. By now, Sabrinia was living permanently with her father, which she said was one of the wisest decisions she has made. She continued to volunteer throughout her middle and high school years.
While in high school, Sabrinia participated in an 11-day unique summer program, a live-aboard sailing camp that focused on sail training on the Tall Ship California as well as marine science knowledge. After several days, the crew was sailing paid customers around the San Francisco Bay. Even though she was sea-sick for most of the program, she did learn to sail and expand her appreciation of all things aquatic. While she developed an appreciation for her floating home, she also made life-long friends in this creative environment. Two of her new friends were from Omaha, and they still remain in contact with each other 20 years later.
After graduating from high school, Sabrinia attended the local community college. During this time, she started her career in retail; she was promoted to store manager at age 18. She said she had an awesome manager when she started, and he made it fun while focusing on the team. “I really like people,” Sabrinia added. She was able to expand her management talents while working at a local bank. After a few years, she shared that she felt like she was just a number and didn’t feel a connection with that company. She decided to start looking for something else, and found the job as Retail Operations Manager at Monterey Bay Aquarium online. She quickly applied, and when she was offered the job she said she felt like she was coming home. Many Aquarium staff and volunteers remember her as a teen.
But the aquarium connection doesn’t end there. Even though she met her husband, Brian, through a mutual friend, the couple realized that they knew each other from the Aquarium when Sabrinia was a volunteer, and Brian was a security guard. They have two children: Ella, 11 and Nathan, 8.
When Sabrinia is not working, she can be found at baseball and softball diamonds cheering on her kids. Her daughter is a pitcher, and has been playing softball since she was three years old. Ella has even competed in the softball world series. Sabrinia laughingly said her son was born with a baseball in his hand as he can play any position. He’s a member of a travel ball club and plays in tournaments from August to February throughout northern California. Brian helps coach the teams.
Sabrinia is also active at the charter school that her children attend and where her husband teaches physical education. She is president of the parent association, which raises money for educational supplies, special assemblies, field trips and playground structures. Like many, Sabrinia avoids the limelight as she explained she likes to be in the back, while others get recognized and receive awards.
Even with her busy work schedule and commitments to her family, Sabrinia finds time to read. “I love to read, it’s my outlet as well as being my ‘me’ time,” she said. She reads during lunch, she wakes up early to read, and she even takes a book with her when attending ball practices and games. However, she also enjoys working in her garden, featuring roses and fruit trees. She cranks up the music, featuring Eminem, a popular rapper, as well as other tunes, and pulls weeds, waters, trims and when ripe, picks fruit from her lemon, persimmon, pear and fig trees.
Sabrinia’s trip to Ireland with her mother in 2009 was a priceless moment, and one she’ll always remember as it involved meeting her mother’s family. Her mother was adopted from Ireland when she was nine months old. Her mother knew what town she was born and baptized in, so she went to a local Catholic church and looked at the baptism records. Even though her mother’s birth parents did not want to meet her, she was able to make contact with an aunt and uncle. Over the years, her mother has returned to Ireland to meet cousins and other relatives, and in 2009, Sabrinia went with her mom to meet her Irish family. Sabrinia shared that it was very special to see her mother interact and create a connection with her Irish relatives. She’d like to return to Ireland to see more of the countryside as well as to visit Scotland where her husband’s family originated.
Sabrinia said she considers her family priceless. Even though her parents divorced when she was two years old, she has been loved her whole life by her parents, step-parents and grandparents. Some of her fondest childhood memories involve time spent with her grandparents in Wayland, a small town in Massachusetts. One of her prized possessions includes family photos, along with an heirloom ring she received upon her grandmother’s death. What makes this ruby and diamond ring special is the story her grandmother wrote about the history of the jewel. Her daughter received a pearl ring, as well as the written details of its history, too. Her son was given a treasured childhood book that was given to his great-grandfather when he was young.
Sabrinia also carries on family traditions, such as baking Christmas bread and sharing it with her family and friends – just like her grandmother did and she even uses the same family recipe.
If Sabrinia wasn’t working for SSA, she said she would like to own a cupcake shop. She does have a side business called GG’s Cupcakes, it’s named after her grandmother who taught her how to cook and bake. She laughingly said she finds time to bake in that 28th hour of the day. But what’s even more amazing is that she doesn’t like to eat cake. When she creates a new item, she’ll take it into work and let her staff give feedback on its taste and appearance.
And in case you’re wondering, the unusual spelling of Sabrinia is that she was the first born in California, and California ends in “nia”. But the loyal, fun-loving individual doesn’t care as she’s too busy taking care of her family.