It is almost the end of 2021! Did you give back to your commUNITY yet? Read Bryan's story below to see who your money gives to!
Our programs are free of cost to youth and your gift ensures that participants are fully supported in learning about and engaging in the local and state political process. Please consider making a tax-deductive donation in any amount before the end of the year!
"My name is Bryan Fernandez and I’m a senior in high school. I am a first generation, bilingual student. I come from a family of four, which includes me, my mother and my two sisters. I am the oldest of the three, which leaves me to be sort of the role model for them. I’ve grown into being this sort of leader for them after many years of trying to find my own identity.
Moving here at the age of three was a very difficult transition. I had to learn a new language, adapt to a new environment, and basically start a new life in a foreign country. It has been very difficult to navigate through the struggles of academics, social life, and much more. Because my mother didn’t have the ability to become college educated, the help and insight that she can provide me when working on my college applications, homework, etc. has been slim to none. I have had to navigate endlessly in order to find outlets that would be of use for me during my academic journey. I’ve had to figure out ways to receive extra help on homework, while also making sure that I help my own sisters out with their own work. I have had to make sacrifices in certain areas of my life because the help that is offered is only available during certain times of the day.
While having to navigate my own tasks and assignments, I am also left with the task to help out around the house and with my sisters. I will sit down with them and review their homework alongside them and answer any questions they may have. This often leads me to multitask a myriad of things. From getting a head start on dinner, to cleaning some area of the house, on top of the homework assignments, it can become overwhelming very quickly. As time has gone on, however, I have been able to manage this better and have improved techniques that ease these tasks. And after years of struggling with a new language and trying to figure out the new normal that I was faced with, I was finally able to ground myself and really focus on who I wanted to become.
As I got older, I began to involve myself more in extracurricular activities which not only strengthened my social skills, but I gained many new soft skills that I have been able to exemplify throughout the various areas of my life. I’ve been elected into many leadership positions by my peers and I’ve been able to lead with empathy at the forefront. In these positions, I have made sure to advocate for those who I represent. I take time to truly listen to their needs and wants in order to get the best representation I can for them. As I approach my next stage in life, I aim to keep my involvement within my communities and help the next leader to step into their shoes.
CalCenter has provided me with a lot of formal and informal knowledge. Through their program Avenues to Civic Action, I was able to learn a lot about personal care, but also some of the inequities we see in our own communities. The most memorable part of ATCA was definitely working on our Social Action Projects. My team member and mentor worked on creating a project that really focused on continuing the conversation about race in America. We decided on this topic in light of the continuous actions of violence against certain races throughout the past year. While this did teach me skills like time-management, communication, and organization, it left me with more than that. This project allowed me to realize that there are people in our communities that want and need to talk about these subjects. They want to be heard and listened to when we have these important conversations about race in America.
In a more informal, but equally as important way, CalCenter allowed me to connect with people who have been able to help me with areas of my life where I would otherwise lack support. For example, as I apply to colleges, CalCenter allowed me to connect with their staff, such as their Program Coordinator - Drucella Miranda, which has been a great asset throughout my whole college application process. They have been the main person I go to when I need help editing my essays and asking questions about the best ways to frame and structure said essays. Without CalCenter and their programs, there would be no way I would have connected with such a supportive mentor. And without the help they have provided me, I would be left in the dark throughout this entire process. CalCenter is home to many great people and opportunities that are purely beneficial to our communities.
I would say that without a doubt, students should become involved with the programs that CalCenter has to offer. The programs that they host aren’t only very interactive and exciting, they are here to empower you. These programs will allow you to become educated on many topics that aren’t usually covered in our schools curriculum. These are great spaces for students to share their opinions without fear of judgement because those who attend are all there in order to have conversations that are of great importance. I have been able to build a great community of peers who are interested in similar, but also completely different things than I am while still sharing many of our same goals. I have become educated on topics that I never even knew existed before participating in their programs, which has led me to discover new areas that I’m interested in.
CalCenter is really working to create leaders within our communities, who will then expand their horizons and take their skills into greater areas and truly start making a bigger impact. They will provide a safe space for you to interact with others and learn alongside them. Their programs will really help you build connections and skills that will become greatly beneficial even after the duration of their programs."