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

Resiliency – as an Act of Political Welfare

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 Nolizwe Nondabula, Youth Health Alliance Program Coordinator

   Engage San Francisco, USF Campus-Community Partnership

 

Reflecting back on my journey with USF’s Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program, I definitely did not see myself continuing a relationship with the Leo T. McCarthy Center after graduation in Spring of this year. My first year in the program was a critical time as the Movement for Black Lives gained momentum and the conversation between police and state violence on Black people made national headlines. My focus as a graduate student was on racial justice, which meant taking classes with an emphasis on racial policies, interning at Race Forward, and working with the Brown Boi Project and PolicyLink.

When I wasn’t in the classroom or in the office, I was on the bus to Ferguson, waking up Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf, and shutting down the Bay Bridge. I was angry and determined to interrupt business as usual until folks knew that all Black Lives Matter.
And while my body told me to slow down, I refused to listen. The urgency I felt from the movement told me to find a way to balance my activism life with my academic life. And though I carried the magic of my ancestors, I soon realized that I also carried the weight of those that came before me.

As I began my last year of grad school, I burned out…hard. My anxiety was at an all-time high, I was tired of being tired, and the desensitization of Black death made it harder for me to attend class, go to work, or get out of bed.

Through the guidance and support of my tribe, I made appointments to see my therapist (and stuck with it) and I thus began to unpack my personal journey around mental health and trauma. This journey is not easy but as a Black Queer Woman living in the United States, it’s necessary. Said best by Audre Lorde, womanist, writer and civil activist,  “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political welfare.”

I believe that we will win this fight for equality, but we need the presence of everyone in the movement to do so. So what happens if, as another tactic, we focus on the resiliency of our communities? Both individually and collectively? In pursuit of my own healing, I’ve recognized my need to lean into the discomfort and stigmatization around trauma so that I can plant my seeds of affirmations and self-love.

So when I was told about the position of the Youth Health Alliance Program Coordinator as part of USF’s Engage San Francisco Campus-Community Partnership, I felt like I was planting another seed towards this continuous journey. Engage San Francisco is very hyper-local in its focus and is asset-based in its philosophy so I have had the privilege of witnessing community magic bask from within, while building relationships with different stakeholders. I’m honored to be a part of spaces where the collective passion and eagerness serves as the foundation to produce community-identified goals in the Western Addition.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.23.12 AM.png

Within my position, my focus is on the emotional well-being of Western Addition youth. I work closely with Western Addition service providers, community members, city agencies and USF staff and faculty in crafting a shared vision of behavioral health. Last week, Engage San Francisco, in partnership with Rhonda Magee, USF Professor of Law with a Social Justice focus, started a 7-week course on Mindfulness and Compassion Based Skills for Stress Management. Classes are free and open to Western Service Providers and community members. And if the amount of vulnerability I’ve already seen is any indication of what’s to come, then I can only imagine how transformative this course will be for those enrolled.

I’m grateful to be a part of the conversation on youth wellness in the Western Addition. I look forward to learning from existing community partnerships while holding on to the fact that we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams. Because, in the end, we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.

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