When you walk into the East Region Child Welfare Services building, you will see a security guard dressed in an Allied Barton uniform greeting you and signing you in. You may notice that he is friendly yet firm, provides exceptional customer service, is highly vigilant, and pays attention to detail - but that may be all you notice.
What people don’t see or know about security guard Shi Yan, known as Yan to his colleagues, is that he is also a magician, former restauranteur and a concert violinist. Yan arrived in the United States from China with a scholarship to attend The Julliard School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory for music, drama and dance. He became a concert violinist with the New York Symphony and shared his musical talents with many.
Seeking more permanent employment, Yan came to San Diego in 2001 and shortly afterwards found employment with Allied Barton. In 2008 he was assigned the East Region Child Welfare Services (CWS) building with staff from CWS, Public Health Nursing, and Aging and Independence Services. As the years passed, staff grew to know and love Yan for being professionally committed to his job, his no-nonsense yet warm approach, his humor and how he goes above and beyond to share his gifts.
No one knew of Yan’s hidden talents until a house committee sponsored holiday party.
“Imagine our surprise when Yan showed up in a tuxedo and treated the whole building to a professional concert - it was beautiful and amazing,” said Regina Roberts at CWS. “It made us all think that if we took the time to get to know people, we would find out who they really are and not just what we see.”
It can be a challenging time when children and families come to the Child Welfare Services office as they may be dealing with circumstances that disrupt their family dynamic. Through it all, Yan often performs magic tricks in the lobby for the children and provides a welcoming presence during a difficult time.
“At Allied Barton, we have specific post orders which we all follow. I have worked with Yan since 2009 and over the years I have seen him do things that make positive changes for improved health, safety and well-being for the families’ that CWS serves,” said Peter Bozzo, Lead Officer at Allied Barton. “He truly is approachable, sensitive to the needs of others, consistent and considerate.”
Yan has made an impact on all who have worked with him and has been a reminder that we all have different identities and roles. We are the sum of our parts and often more than what people see or assume at first glance. Yan recently received a promotion as a Lead Officer at another CWS site. He will be greatly missed, not only for his efficiency and music but for the person that he is.
Watch a video of Yan performing “My Heart Will Go On” on his violin here.
Article written by Ashley Barbee (Community Health Promotion Specialist) and Gina Roberts (East Region CWS) , County of San Diego