My work with children began in college. I’ve been a preschool assistant, afterschool counselor, youth program coordinator, big sister, bilingual elementary teacher, counselor, and a teacher at Salisbury Continuation High School, where I was honored as teacher of the year! Now I'm a counselor at Red Bluff High School.
My career in education is greatly influenced by the workstudy job I had at UCSB. From my freshman year until I graduated five years later, I worked for the Isla Vista Youth Projects (IVYP) http://www.ivyp.org/. This magnificent nonprofit program and its director, LuAnn Miller, taught me the foundations of caring for children, the value of diversity, and the importance of providing programs and services to meet the needs of families in a community.
IVYP gave me the opportunity to learn, grow, and become a leader within the organization. My time working with a diverse group of youth at many different levels taught me to respect and value the experiences of the children and to meet them where they are at. LuAnn and IVYP always strove to create the right programs for the children in that specific community of Goleta, California.
When I decided to become a teacher, I knew that many students in California spoke Spanish. Therefore, I became a bilingual teacher. I needed to meet the needs of the students I would be working with. I loved teaching in Spanish and watching students learn to read and write in Spanish and then transfer those skills to English. Bilingual Education is something that should be embraced by more schools, but unfortunately many Californians disagree. I advocated for my students and the bilingual program for twelve years and I still believe in it 100% if it is done correctly.
As a teacher, I realized that many students often needed something more than academics. I wanted to be of more assistance, so I earned my Masters in Educational Counseling and became a counselor at a middle school in San Bernardino, CA, and later a high school counselor.
While working with teenagers in a continuation high school, I became more aware of the desperate need for more quality foster parents and families who will adopt. Most of the foster teens I worked with had lived in ten to twenty foster homes if they’ve been in the system for a while. Their transition into adulthood is very difficult because they have no support. More people need to be willing to help out and adopt, not just foster. Children need a family.
I became a foster parent and eventually adopted a two-year-old boy. He is an amazing gift in more ways than I can say. I love him as I do my biological son. Adoption has brought so many gifts into my life that I wish more people would do it. There are so many children who need a loving family.
Many of us live blessed and wonderful lives and the daily nightmares that many foster youth are living through do not touch us, but they touch me, every day. I hear their stories and see what goes on. It’s a shame, a terrible shame, that children are not more protected in this country. More of us need to reach out to the youth, especially the foster youth. They have been hurt by the people who they love the most and they need love and acceptance from healthy people.
The future is in the hands of the children of today. We are all youth advocates in some way, but are we willing to meet the kids where they are at and do what is necessary to help? Each one of us has the power to make a difference. One of my main focuses now is building the Salisbury Mentoring Project where adults mentor high school students. We are always looking for more mentors. Please contact me if you're interested in mentoring.