What is a typical Monday for you?
I come in the morning and do the press clippings for the senator to make sure that she’s well informed. … Then the phone calls start. A typical Monday morning is really fast-paced. After the morning rush things level out. I’ll start to put together what I need for my analysis of bills.
What bill are you most excited to work on?
SB107, the Access to Healthy Food Act. I saw the need for it over the summer when I was in Pennsylvania. I saw just how necessary it is to have access to healthy foods and how a lot of grocery stores aren’t in the low-income neighborhoods.
What were you doing in Pennsylvania?
It was part of the Public Policy International Affairs Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon.
Before this, you graduated from UC Berkeley last spring. How were you involved in the creation of the Multi-Cultural Resource Center there?
It’s been a long process at our campus. There were some rallies in 1999 that had led to the chancellor agreeing to put money, over a five year period, toward … the establishment of a multicultural center. We realized five years later that very few of the agreements were met. We got together, organized, and started having meetings with the university again … It’s still not complete, but we’re way ahead of where we were.
Why was this important to you?
Students need a space on campus where they can start to have a dialog. UC Berkeley is known as being a very liberal campus, but once you’re on the campus and are a real student you see a lot of divisions across different communities. A lot of students, especially minorities–African-American and Latino students–don’t feel like they have the support from the university.
I heard that you work for the Sacramento Children’s Home and also do volunteer work for foster youth.
Actually, I have a meeting later tonight … with Mutual Assistance Network to talk about transitional services for foster youth. … The Del Paso Heights community has an outstanding number of foster youth in that neighborhood. A lot of them are reaching 18, the age of emancipation. MAN is trying to step-up to bridge the transition gap, and hopefully prevent a lot of unnecessary homelessness, pregnancies and unemployment.
You left home at age 12 and experienced what it’s like as a foster kid yourself.
Yeah, it really had to do with … well,
unfortunately you have to grow up really fast when you’re the oldest child and you live in the type of setting that I grew up in. At 12 years old, I knew that if I continued to live with my mom, being able to go to school and then college wouldn’t be possible. So I talked to a friend from school’s family, and they said that they would take me in.
What was it like after you left home?
In the beginning,
I thought that it was a relief because finally I had stability in my life.
I didn’t worry about having to move every couple of months, and where my mom was, or even–though, with a certain level of grief–have to worry about providing for my little brothers. Within a few months after I left, my mother’s house was invaded by the police (there were drugs underneath her bed) and all my brothers were taken away. It was a really dramatic experience and I wasn’t there to stop it. Over the past few years I have really had to do a lot to get over that and rebuild my relationship with my brothers because some of them did blame me for leaving them.
How did your impression of foster care change?
Initially my impression was great. I was able to go to school. I was able to be the president of my class every year and graduate at the top of my class. But at the end, when I started to have issues with my foster family, I felt that there was nobody to turn to. I didn’t know who my social worker was. I never went to the dentist the whole time I was in foster care. … I just didn’t know what services were available to me. I think it might have had a lot to do with my social worker seeing me as an ideal model child.
What is most important to you in addressing problems with the foster-care system?
Making sure that everyone is aware of all the services that are available to foster youth.
Compared to your experience growing up, how hard is the fellowship? What are the challenges?
You have to do a lot of thinking on your feet and make a lot of quick adjustments. After going through an orientation for a month you are placed in an office. … Bills are already being talked about. You have to come in and find your place. Even though your mentors are willing to sit down, talk and help you out … you have to prove yourself and be quick.