Five Lessons from Community-Engaged Living and Learning

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Lupita Garcia

B.A. Sociology Major ’18 and triple minor in Criminal Justice, Public Service and Community Engagement, and Chican@-Latin@ Studies

When I started my USF career, I would not have imagined myself accomplishing everything that I have. Participating in the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Living Learning Community and then the USF in DC program gave me many opportunities that have paid off in the end and have taught me valuable lessons that will continue to follow me as I continue to pursue my career. I am thankful to have found the professors, staff and now mentors through these programs. Through self reflection, thanks to EMDS who helped me strengthen this skill (shout out to my RA, ACE and EMDS roommates) I have listed the common lessons that I have learned through both these programs and how EMDS helped guide me to achieve in DC.

  1. Community Organizing is important wherever you go, whichever career path you take

Walking out of EMDS, I had a basic understanding of how to effectively organize communities as I knew the basics of campaigning. Through the full-time internship om USF in DC, I have been able to continue to strengthen my community organizing skills as my work requires me to work closely with communities and help empower the messages and their campaigns.

  1. “Crossing Borders and Discovering Home”

While this is a quote directly associated to EMDS, USF in DC continued to teach me the same lesson. EMDS pushed me to not only cross physical borders but also personal ones in the ways which challenged me to think about situations. I learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; it is ultimately how a person learns. Living my entire life in the Bay Area, I only new how to picture home within the Bay. Landing in D.C .in August, I honestly wanted to go back home and be surrounded by the USF community I knew but I kept telling myself to discover home in D.C. Honestly, I did and it didn’t take too long . I found similarities between San Francisco and D.C. which helped with the initial discomfort of being in a new city on a new coast. Now I hope to return once I’m done with my undergraduate degress and potentially start my career here.

  1. Look at everything with an open mind

You may think you have a certain stance on an issue/topic but take the time and continue to hear other people’s opinion. You may never know what you may learn. Take the time to have intellectual conversations that push all parties involved to think critically about the issues you are discussing and see whether or not you gain something new. Don’t be afraid to change your perspective/opinion on something. The more knowledge you gain the better. Honestly it’s why the saying “with knowledge comes power” exist.

  1. Self reflect and take time for yourself

This is the one I struggle with the most to this day but have gotten better. Always find time for yourself and do the things that you want to do. I find that through this, I created goals that I never would have imagined creating for myself and this has lead me to the places I have gotten to today. When I have time for myself, I ask myself where in which areas I want to continue to grow and challenge myself, and tell myself failure in life is okay. We are human beings and this is how we learn. Self check-ins are a healthy and important part of self care.

Also, when you’re not feeling 100% percent well, take the day off, it helps you get better sooner. Just don’t take advantage of it.

  1. Follow your passions

You’re at your happiest when you are pursuing what you’re interested in. EMDS pushed me to follow my passions and continue to look for them and incorporate them wherever I go. In D.C., I made sure my passions would be integrated in my internship through the clients I work with at Revolution Messaging and I can truthfully say, I enjoy my job and what I do every day. Working with people who also pursue their passions through the work they do taught me that in order for me to be the best at my job, I need to love the work I do and not just achieve at the skills that come with the job, skills training will always be there but my passions will only be there if I seek them.

I could have not been where I am today if it were not for EMDS, the McCarthy Center and USF in DC guiding me to become the person I want to become. They have pushed and motivated me to become a version of myself that I did not know existed and am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

 

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Apply for our USF in DC program for Spring and Fall 2017 at https://www.usfca.edu/mccarthy/programs/usf-washington-dc

McCarthy Center Rockstars

The results are in! Several of our students were nominated for Student Leadership Awards celebrating students whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development, and vitality of USF and the broader community. Award recipients represent student role models who exhibit commitment, enthusiasm, and the pursuit of excellence through their endeavors. Join us in congratulating our students on their achievements! Continue reading

EMDS Goes to Cuba: Discovering “Chino”

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Jazlynn Pastor
Communication Studies Major
Public Service and Community Engagement Minor
Asian Pacific American Studies Minor

Named after the University of San Francisco’s late and great Esther Madriz, Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) living-learning community focuses on Hip-Hop and its use for social change. To me, being in EMDS means learning how to become a better activist through our own strengths and passions. A part of our experience includes going on a transborder travel experience during winter intersession.

This year, our Cohort, EMDS’ 10th Cohort, traveled to Cuba — with support from the Leo T. McCarthy Center — to meet with different community resources and builders in the cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. We learned about Cuba’s social problems and how the people are working together to create solutions. We also reflected on how we can apply what have learned back home. The best way to describe my Cuban experience is through the words of our tour guide from a community organization called Muraleando: “See what happens when you look deeper into a community?”

My most meaningful takeaway from our trip to Cuba was being able to find my Asian identity within a Latin country. Our main tour guide, Sara Daisey, said there was an Asian population but I did not see it until my cohort and I went deeper into the communities. As we met with different centers and escaped the tourism, I finally saw the Cuban “Chino” narrative. I saw the art of Cuban artists like Wildredo Lam, passed by Havana’s Chinatown, heard the Chinese trumpets in the congo music, read names like “Sebastian Herrera Chan,” and of course, met some of Cuba’s Afro-Chinos. My favorite moment was a community party hosted by Committees for the Defense of Revolution.

That night, EMDS met people of all ages and complexions. As we danced to son, the heart and music of Cuba, an elderly gentleman started to dance with me. We did not need language to communicate but instead, we did what I do and love best, dance. Like an abuelo (grandfather) teaching his nieta (granddaughter) how to salsa, we shared a moment that did not require us to speak.

After my salsa lesson, EMDS’ Advocate for Community Engagement, Mary, helped translate the gentleman’s words. He shared how I was the first person he danced with that night and how he is the eldest member of the community being 99 years old. I learned that his name was Miguel, and he learned that my name was Jazlynn. Curious to why he had chosen me to be his first dance partner, he simply touched my eyes and said “camarada,” meaning comrade in Spanish. From that experience with Miguel, I discovered and embraced what it meant to be a Chino in Cuba. What “Chino” means in the US does not compare to what it means in Cuba. Here in the US, it is a derogatory term that carries a painful history, but there in Cuba, it is an identifier and something to be proud of.

After a couple more salsa lessons, I had to say goodbye to my new compañero (friend). He concluded our farewell by saying, “do not forget this place, and do not forget me.” I intend to keep my promise to Miguel and overall to the members of the API community, by continuing my work in social justice and pursuing my studies Asian Pacific American Studies and Public Service and Community Engagement.

By “crossing borders and discovering home” in Cuba, I am able to continue my step towards change by telling others: “See what happens when you look deeper into a community.”

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Dispelling Stereotypes and the Importance of Memory: A Walk Through the Fillmore District

Mary CruzMary Cruz
Advocate for Community Engagement
Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar

As an alumnus of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS), a living learning community on campus that strives to embody the Jesuit ideals of education and social justice, I was naturally ecstatic to have the opportunity to blend my role as an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) with my experience in the EMDS program. However, I am most excited about being able to work with the students in the current cohort as they navigate their journey of learning about social issues within the Fillmore community and Cuba, as well as its relation to Hip Hop.

This year EMDS has partnered up with the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center (EHHCC) in the Fillmore to work on an amazing project to preserve the histories of the change makers that are portrayed on the mural on the exterior of the center. As the ACE for EMDS I have the opportunity to participate in this project as part of my direct service with the Fillmore community.

Part of the importance of having this project partnership between the EHHCC and the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars is to create a social consciousness about the histories of the Fillmore community and preserve these stories first hand while the change makers are still available to give their personal testaments of their involvement in the community as well as how they have observed the community evolve.

Last month, to introduce students to the space and community that they will be recording in their mural projects, EMDS participated in a tour of the Fillmore community led by the Director of Engage San Francisco for the Leo T. McCarthy Center, Karin Cotterman along with community members Lynette White and Altheda Carrie.

Participating in the walk through of the Fillmore allowed me to learn more about the inviting environment of the community. Many times we are put off by the exterior or stereotypes of a community without actually entering the space and drawing our own impressions or understanding the issues facing a community. During the tour, the students and I experienced a number of community members who were not a part of the tour, come up to us and tell us their memories about the history of the Fillmore. This interaction which happened naturally, definitely helped humanize the people within the community and reinforce the importance of our service project as we continue to record the oral histories of the community members in the Fillmore throughout the semester.

Check back for shared oral histories in future blog posts!

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