Even though I feel like I am always yearning for more, I really have had an amazing life. I was born in the city of Castro Valley on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area. My family moved to Fremont shortly thereafter. At the time when I was growing up the southeast bay consisted largely of orchards. Our neighborhood was previously a walnut orchard and my school was across from an apricot orchard. My father worked at the local Ford factory and later became a police officer for the city of Hayward. My mother was a waitress for most of her life. My grandparents lived on a ranch in the foothills of the sierras located on the Calaveras River. I spent a lot of my youth in the country and developed a spiritual connection to nature.
As I grew older, I began to become aware of a feeling of discontent. I was not doing well in school and was hanging around a bad crowd. I knew I wanted to get out of my present situation so I took the Proficiency Exam and joined the Navy. One of the many reasons I chose the Navy was because I also have a deep fondness for the ocean. Whenever I find myself lost I always make a trip to the sea. It seems to always put things into perspective. After leaving the military I came home from three years of being away to find that the city I lived in no longer resembled what it looked like when I left. This was now the Silicon Valley. What was once orchard was now pre-fabricated concrete buildings.
Finding work in Silicon Valley during its’ golden years was not difficult and I soon found a place of employment with one of the world’s largest Semi-Conductor manufacturers called Applied Materials. While there I learned many new skills both professionally and personally. I started as an expeditor and soon began working with buyers and planners. Because of the aggressive nature of the field I also had to learn to be a bit more assertive as I was a bit shy at the time. Learning to be more aggressive and honing my public speaking skills helped me during large meetings that I needed to participate in.
One of the new skills I began to enjoy was fundraising. Every year around Christmas time the many buildings that Applied Materials occupied would have a contest. The object of the competition was to see what building could make the most money for Second Harvest Food Bank of San Jose. I was the captain of our building for three years and we did rather well. This experience sparked something in me and I became very interested in helping non-profits. This desire has never left me.
My hard work paid off and I was soon promoted into a new area that involved researching reported quality issues. I found it fascinating and developed the skill of exploring every facet of an issue before reporting my findings. I also became serious about going back to school. Around this time I was introduced to a gentleman that belonged to a religious order called the Franciscans. The Franciscans are known for their social justice work and minister to those people who are on the margins of society. He was also the director of a support group for people suffering from AIDS. After meeting with him I was soon in a training program to work with this marginalized group. One day he invited me to have dinner with his order in San Francisco in the Tenderloin district. One of the things that most stuck out to me about that night was the polarization of the dining table. At one end were the more conservative brothers of the order that were looking very pious, while the other end was very jocular. At the center of this group was a man who would soon become my mentor. His name was Richard and he had created a hospice in the Mission district of San Francisco called Marty’s Place (Aurora Dawn Foundation) for homeless people with AIDS. I worked with Richard at least once a month for over ten years doing various activities from fund raising to painting the fire escape. During this period I also started to think about the need to learn how to write grants. The house was a never ending circus but one that positively changed my life forever. Unfortunately, Richard developed ALS and died in 2011 and the foundation was handed over to another nonprofit.
During this period I was chipping away at my general education. After the last lay-off from the company I worked for I made a detour in my education plans. I knew that I liked working with people and at one point wanted to be a social worker, but had been hearing that many counties were laying off social workers. Being laid off in an unpredictable career was not something I wanted to experience again. I soon found another job working nights so that I could go to school during the day and finish the prerequisites for a nursing degree. Nursing is a much more stable career.
After getting out of school I worked in various medical jobs and eventually found myself working for Notre Dame de Namur University as the Health Services and Education Coordinator. Besides working with the students immediate health needs I also get the privilege of doing outreach work on various topics, including a monthly newsletter. While working at NDNU I began to work closely with the director of Social Justice in the Dorothy Stang Center as well as the Director of Spirituality. I also became a member of the Mission Integration Council.
I feel that adding social justice and spirituality to my work gives me a more rounded perspective. I strongly believe that we must connect to people in our work not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. I also feel that the completion of my degree in Human Services can help me move forward in my career dreams of working in the nonprofit field where I can further develop skills in the fundraising area. To quote one of my heroes, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Saint Francis of Assisi.