We will not stimulate job growth successfully until the 11+ million undocumented immigrants in the US can come out of the shadows and participate in our economy without fear! Immigration Reform IS our jobs solution!
Tag Archives: California
When Over 11 Million People Residing in a Country Are Not Allowed to Contribute, Everyone Loses!
The following negative consequences should be enough to spur a sincere effort to address our crippling immigration system during an election season when everything is on the line:
- Increased border violence between the US and Mexico
- Decrease in consumer confidence for 11+ million people in US
- Decreased local, state and federal revenue feeding education, health care, social security and all operating costs
- Increased oppression, abuse and violence against undocumented females
- Decreased employer confidence regarding hiring undocumented immigrants
- Lack of tracking and accountability for undocumented immigrants
Keeping the 11+ million undocumented immigrants in the US living in the shadows is hurting our economic recovery more than anyone dares to assert. What follows are some convincing perspectives on why we need to hurry up and pass immigration reform because the only people that are benefitting from delayed reform are criminals and organized crime.
In a 2007 report by the PEW Hispanic Center, “2007 National Survey of Latinos: As Illegal Immigration Issue Heats Up, Hispanics Feel A Chill,” over half of the adult US Hispanic population worries “that either they, a family member or a friend could be deported.” Three years later, the 2010 U.S. Census estimated a more accurate number of over 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. Hispanic attitudes towards immigration policies are absolutely pertinent when considering the total US social and economic impacts.
Back in 2003, journalist Jim Wasserman wrote an article in the Oakland Tribune reporting on the repeal of California’s SB60: “Schwarzenegger Signs Repeal of Immigrant License Law.” It was published well before the economic downturn giving us the window into the future as we now experience the impact of these policies on the total US population 8 years later.
The 2007 article, “Domestic Poverty” (Billitteri) from 2006 Census data shows the growing rate of poverty in the U.S. while the rate of millionaires has also increased. A poor America is a lose-lose for all! Income disparity in the US has resulted from the Bush tax cuts as much as from our remiss as a nation to fix our broken immigration system. Creating economic, educational and emotional freedoms will create more revenue and opportunities for everyone, both citizen and immigrants. As we know, these statistics of income disparaties have only broadened since Billiteri’s article.
Before current Arizona policies were enacted targeting undocumented immigrants, an analysis was presented by the University of Arizona: Udall Center for Studies and Public Policy, “Immigrants in Arizona: Fiscal and Economic Impacts” (Gans, 2008).The economic model included as an appendix projects over 16 million dollars in savings for Indiana. By itself this report could tip the scales in congress in favor of a “Driving Privilege Card,” and for immigration reform. One of the most impactful statements in this report is “In addition a 2005 report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, University of Georgia, reported that the current buying power of Hispanics/Latinos in Indiana for 2005 was $ 4,866,103,000.00” (3). But economic consequences of delayed reforms are not the only casualties.
The emotional consequences of living in fear also play a part in the immigration equation. The Psychology of Men and Masculinity is an APA publication covering a wide range of male oriented issues from gender stereotypes to fathering pertaining to males from all backgrounds. A March 2011 article was based on a study titled, “Work-Related Intimate Partner Violence Among Employed Immigrants From Mexico” (Galvez, et. al.). It offers an unlikely, yet powerful approach to this argument in favor of legalizing driving for undocumented immigrants. No matter what your perspective on immigration is in the US, dominating vulnerable populations is just plain Un-American. The emotional consequences of harsh immigration policies, such as denying driving privileges, are the final arguments in favor of a more humane immigration reform.
The most cost-effective and humane way to recover our economy and dignity as a great America is to put immigration reform in front of all other issues today and begin by allowing undocumented immigrants to be accounted for by issuing special driving cards. Then, we can really begin the recovery by engaging the resources and contributions of 11+ million people!
Below is an expanded version of this text for those who wish to read about this issue in more detail:
In a 2007 report by the PEW Hispanic Center, “2007 National Survey of Latinos: As Illegal Immigration Issue Heats Up, Hispanics Feel A Chill,” over half of the adult US Hispanic population worries “that either they, a family member or a friend could be deported.” The report highlights the domino effects of delayed immigration reform on the total US Hispanic population from “stepped-up deportations, more workplace raids, and restrictions on access to driver’s licenses…” By randomly interviewing over 2,000 Hispanic adults, asking a variety of questions, the study authors found that over three quarters of the 47 million Hispanics in the US disapprove of the current enforcement tactics on undocumented immigrants. This is almost the direct flip-flop of what non-Hispanics feel (PEW). Despite the risks, Hispanic families, both documented and undocumented believe that their children will have more opportunities than themselves by living in the US.
Opportunities are tenuos for a shadow population. The reality of successfully creating jobs and the innovation that leads to jobs under a shroud of the fear is unlikely. The only innovation that takes place in a climate of fear is carried out by criminals, who thrive underground and who have thrived in recent years.
This PEW study on Latino attitudes towards immigration was done in 2007, just prior to the US Recession and the escalating drug war violence in Mexico. Today, as economic opportunities have decreased with increased enforcement in the US along with a climate of intolerance, young Hispanics rejected by US policies are embraced by drug cartels and gun runners from the US to Mexico, vice-versa. This is a situation where we all lose. These concerns and others brought up in the PEW study have only magnified since its publication. These and others are deep threats to quality of life in the US from the perspectives of the people who are most deeply affected.
Three years later, the 2010 U.S. Census estimated a more accurate number of over 50 million Hispanics in the U.S. Hispanic attitudes towards immigration policies are absolutely pertinent when considering the total US social and economic impacts. Lack of opportunities for such a significant percentage of our population is worth deeper consideration. Many opposed to allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally do not fully understand the negative implications of purely punitive immigration policies.
In order to learn how to create immigration reform that works, we also need to understand the evolution of this situation as it has transitioned from bad to worse for most of us in the US, not just undocumented populations. Back in 2003, journalist Jim Wasserman wrote an article in the Oakland Tribune reporting on the repeal of California’s SB60: “Schwarzenegger Signs Repeal of Immigrant License Law.” He describes how opponents of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants proposed that California’s SB60, signed by then Governor Gray Davis, presented a security risk to the US. California’s SB60 allowed undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a driver’s license. Governor Schwarzenegger made repeal of this bill a campaign promise for his first 100 days in office. The article emphasizes opinions by the Governor and his supporters, who believed that by preventing undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses, our streets and country would be safer. There was no mention of the potential domino effects associated with this pivotal event that began the economic downturn along with the free for all policies in the financial market. The repeal of SB60 has negatively affected both the US and Mexico’s economies and national security.
Wasserman’s article touts the Governor’s tough talk and focuses on his promise to keep his word, a promise that failed to recognize California’s status as a high-ranking global economy and the impacts of its’ policies on the US and global arena because, “As California goes, so goes the nation” (Author unknown).
Regardless of illegal status, when you deny 2 million people in California alone the right to drive, this affects their ability to secure employment and to be the consumers our global economy depends upon. Local, state and federal sources lose several revenue streams from driver’s license fees, employment taxes, social security, Medicare, and sales taxes. The lack of opportunity presented by delaying immigration reform has affected buying power, but most importantly, has promoted a climate of fear creating an insecure and apprehensive market even more impactful than Wall Street traders. As an example, both California and Nevada tightened driver’s license eligibility in 2003, denying access to undocumented immigrants. They now have the highest US unemployment rates at 11.9 and 12.5 respectively (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011). Cutting off economic opportunity has not created jobs.
“Opponents labeled the law (SB60) a reward for lawbreakers and said terrorists could take advantage of it, easily getting drivers’ licenses and slipping into society” (Wasserman). Isn’t a driver’s license a method of tracking people? Isn’t it difficult to track someone who has no record to track? I and many others believe that having a shadow population operating without accountability only increases the threat to our national security and feeds the need for underground crime. Not only has border crime increased on the US/Mexico border since the repeal of SB60, state and federal revenues have decreased while poverty rates have increased across all cultural lines in both the US and Mexico.
Popular opinion is swayed by political rhetoric and Wasserman’s article depicts the historical rhetoric of 2003. It was published well before the economic downturn giving us the window into the future as we now experience the impact of these policies on the total US population 8 years later.
The 2007 article, “Domestic Poverty” (Billitteri) from 2006 Census data shows the growing rate of poverty in the U.S. while the rate of millionaires has also increased. It highlights that low-skilled immigrant populations are becoming the growing poor in America even as immigrant populations increase, leading to a higher percentage of people in the US living below the poverty level. It depicts striking statistics of income disparities. As the author exhibits a variety of factors and populations most effected, it is obvious the immigration and tax policies of the past designed to address poverty in America still aren’t producing the desired results.
Articles like Billitteri’s are powerful, yet frustrating illustrations about how ludicrous our economic design is in the US. With objectivity, he recognizes the growing poor among all populations, but especially in the Hispanic community. A poor America is a lose-lose for all! Income disparity in the US has resulted from the Bush tax cuts as much as from our remiss as a nation to fix our broken immigration system. Creating economic, educational and emotional freedoms will create more revenue and opportunities for everyone, both citizen and immigrants.
Every state has had their own method for tackling the issues of undocumented immigrants. The Indiana Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs (ICHLA) worked to create a case presented to the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) in 2005. This report “Follow-up Report on the Challenges of Obtaining an Indiana Driver’s License” was submitted to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Jr. and the Indiana Legislative Council, making it a part of the official Indiana record. It was an appeal in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants the rights to obtain driver’s licenses. It thoroughly outlines safety and national security considerations in favor of allowing licenses. From Indiana’s rural, agrarian culture void of public transportation to the safety benefits, the ICHLA addresses the economic benefits of increasing state and local revenues for relocating immigrant populations. The report addresses the nuances of documentation and the values of immigrant populations that will only create benefits when they are seen as contributors. It makes detailed recommendations for the development of an accountability program with a “Driving Privilege Card” meant to boost Indiana’s economy and create safer communities through legalized driving for immigrant populations.
In taking a position in favor of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, the 2005 ICHLA report outlines many of the same issues others have considered. It provides a strong case countering the policies that have led to devastating consequences to national security by creating an unwelcome climate of discrimination. As part of building an argument in favor of permitting licenses, it also includes how other states like Utah and Washington support a more pragmatic and compassionate policy. It provides pages of wowing statistics on the economic contributions of Hispanics to the US and that there is overwhelming support of other Hispanic organizations for more humane immigration policies. The economic model included as an appendix projects over 16 million dollars in savings for Indiana. By itself this report could tip the scales in congress in favor of a “Driving Privilege Card,” and for immigration reform. One of the most impactful statements in this report is “In addition a 2005 report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, University of Georgia, reported that the current buying power of Hispanics/Latinos in Indiana for 2005 was $ 4,866,103,000.00” (3). But economic consequences of delayed reforms are not the only casualties.
The emotional consequences of living in fear also play a part in the immigration equation. The Psychology of Men and Masculinity is an APA publication covering a wide range of male oriented issues from gender stereotypes to fathering pertaining to males from all backgrounds. A March 2011 article was based on a study titled, “Work-Related Intimate Partner Violence Among Employed Immigrants From Mexico” (Galvez, et. al.). It offers an unlikely, yet powerful approach to this argument in favor of legalizing driving for undocumented immigrants. The study and the assertions it makes from the focus groups involved offer a deeper and more compassionate window into the immigrant dilemma and the emotional issues surrounding the driver’s license issue.
One of the most underestimated consequences of delayed immigration reform, combined with increased federal and state enforcement of immigration violations, has been the emotional impacts on the families of undocumented immigrants in the form of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Through four focus groups of men in intervention programs after battering their partners, this research illustrates the many ways that the stress of being undocumented in the US deteriorates the mental and emotional well-being of individuals and their family members, resulting in increased violence directed towards partners. The descriptions of the barriers Hispanics face and how the males experience demasculinization by methodical immigration policies is illuminating. The study also describes tactics male partners use to control undocumented female partners precisely due to harsh immigration driving restrictions, “Many of these immigrants have not had driving experience or a driver’s license issued from their home country, but increasingly are living in urban areas in which driving can be considered a necessity of daily life. This need can be exploited by an abusive man to surveil and control his partner” (Galvez, et.al).
In this heart-tugging case in favor of driver’s licenses, for undocumented populations in the US, nothing strikes deeper than physical abuse and conditions that enable domination over vulnerable populations. No matter what your perspective on immigration is in the US, dominating vulnerable populations is just plain Un-American. The emotional consequences of harsh immigration policies, such as denying driving privileges, are the final arguments in favor of a more humane immigration reform, but perhaps we need more statistics to drive this point home.
Before current Arizona policies were enacted targeting undocumented immigrants, an analysis was presented by the University of Arizona: Udall Center for Studies and Public Policy, “Immigrants in Arizona: Fiscal and Economic Impacts” (Gans, 2008). This analysis projected fiscal and economic impacts of immigrants on the state of Arizona. It was conducted with the input-output IMPLAN® model of calculating cost versus revenue. It considers in great detail factors such as tax revenues, health care costs, education, sales and property tax, motor vehicle taxes, business taxes, consumer spending, incarceration, etc. Through this input-output model for 2004 costs and revenue of immigrant populations (both documented and undocumented) it was found that immigrants produced tax revenues of $2.4 billion and cost the state of Arizona a total of $1.4 billion, netting a gain of $940 million.
This prescient analysis of political battles to come seems not to have made it to the general public in Arizona, or to Governor Jan Brewer’s office. As an in-depth look into the real numbers of both cost and contributions, this report gives immigration opponents something to chew on. It is yet another example refuting the idea that the costs outweigh benefits. It illustrates with current relevance that by creating economic opportunity, everyone wins. Judith Gans’ extensive experience in immigration policies outlines the contributions of the immigrant community to states in the form of tax revenue generated, especially when immigrants are allowed to contribute. The real test will be in Arizona’s 2011 Fiscal report at the end of this year. Again, driver’s license and immigration reforms will create economic prosperity through tax revenues and this report proves immigrants increase tax revenues when they have the freedom to work and contribute to state economies.
We all know the US cannot deport 11.4 million people (the estimate of undocumented immigrants in the US). If you deny them the freedom to work and contribute to tax revenues, they only become liabilities. It is clear that we need to change how we approach this challenge by elevating immigrants to a point where they can contribute and pay their fair share in running the US.
A driver’s license is the first ticket to economic independence and contribution to society. In the US we sympathize with females in the Middle East, where few have the right to drive a car. We know that preventing a person from having the right to drive is a form of oppression, yet we insist on carrying out these same policies for a significant percentage of the population residing in our own country. Isn’t the bottom line to ensure that those who are here in the United States are accounted for, follow the laws and contribute to our system as a whole so it can run properly with the revenues that equal the population it serves?
- Billitteri, Thomas J. “Domestic Poverty.” CQ Researcher. September 7, 2007. Vol. 17 Issue 31.
- PEW Hispanic Center. “2007 National Survey of Latinos: As Illegal Immigration Issue Heats Up, Hispanics Feel A Chill.” PEW: Washington, DC, December 2007. PDF. 28 April 2011. http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=84
- “Follow-up Report on the Challenges of Obtaining an Indiana Driver’s License.” The 2005 Driver’s License/Immigration Subcommittee on The Indiana Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (ICHLA). Web. 2 May 2011.
- Galvez, G., Mankowski, E. S., McGlade, M. S., Ruiz, M. E., & Glass, N. “Work-Related Intimate Partner Violence Among Employed Immigrants From Mexico.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 21 March 2011. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 28 April 2011.
- Gans, Judith. “Immigrants in Arizona: Fiscal and Economic Impacts.” The University of Arizona: Udall Center for Studies and Public Policy. 2008. PDF. Web. 28 April 2011.
- United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Local Area Unemployment Statistics. April 2011. Web. 7 June 2011. http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
- US Census Bureau. “2010 Census Data.” 2011. Web. 3 May 2011. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/index.php
- Wasserman, Jim. “Schwarzenegger Signs Repeal of Immigrant License Law.” Oakland Tribune. San Ramon, CA. 4 December 2003. ProQuest Newsstand. Web. 27 Apr. 2011.
by Christina Ivazes
The current state of the US economy, our unskilled labor force, the need for educational reform, and the skyrocketing costs of a college education demand we be smart and efficient about solutions that affect and connect all of the above. Perhaps a better strategy is to back away from the ideal that every American should go to college. Yes, we can all agree that every American should have the opportunity to go to college if they choose. However, to give our students and our nation the best educated and skilled workforce, we should not focus on every American going to college, but first, on every American graduating from high school with two years of career training. This pragmatic strategy offers numerous benefits to our country.
By becoming more efficient and effective in preparing students for the real world and college, the US will save money and jobs. In 2010, The Fiscal Times reports, “just 56 percent of those who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree…Some students drop out because of the trouble paying the cost—the average college debt upon graduation is a whopping $24,000” (Reynolds Lewis). According to the U.S. Dept. of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the cost of a four-year college education is from $18,900 to $35,500 and rising. We also know that these quotes are a low-average and not really what a four-year is typically costing our college graduates, where $50-$100,000 is a more common estimate today in 2011. And graduation does not necessarily equate employment as we see with a glut of unemployed college graduates today weighed down with inflated student loan and credit card debt. There are jobs however, that are immune to outsourcing and which do not warrant an expensive four-year degree.
Secondary and post-secondary vocational and technical training programs are historically lower in cost with competitive salaries to those earned from four-year college degrees. Matthew B. Crawford advocates for the many benefits of trade-based training in his bookShop Class as Soulcraft, “You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information system or low-level “creative” (53). The Houston Chronicle published an article supporting Crawford’s concept stating, “Mechanics of all types are in high demand and can command a high hourly wage… Many blue collar jobs require training through apprenticeships or vocational training programs and others may require on-the-job training or passing an aptitude test prior to employment” (Nielson). This is not a proposal to eliminate the college track for high school students in America.
Shouldn’t we beg the questions: Why are we so single tracked about how to create a productive & competitive job force? And, shouldn’t we think about downsizing the cost of education along with our lifestyles? The IES reports that in 2008, earnings for an employed four-year college graduate are on average of $55,000/males, $45,000/females per year. Compare the costly four-year college degree with training and apprenticeship (which can begin as a junior in high school) for an electrician who can earn from $34,000 and upwards with no student loan debt with just two more years of post-secondary training for $400-$1000/yr. “Semi-truck drivers…start out making $50,000 annually…and only requires about four weeks of training to obtain a license” (Nielson). Debt free high school training in the trades or technology/health careers can yield from $34,000-$50,000+ per year. Another pragmatic idea Crawford suggests is “even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers” (53). By increasing high school career training programs, we can create a stronger buy-in for students, reducing training costs while also reducing the costs of high school dropouts for our society.
The costs of high school dropouts are far-reaching beyond the costs of college dropouts. According to the 2007 report The Economic Losses from High School Drop-outs in California, the significant impact from high school dropouts come from lost tax revenue, Medical and Medicare expenditures, fiscal costs to fight crime, prosecute and incarcerate felons, and increased assistance for both felons and their families. “The economic magnitudes are substantial” (2 Belfield, Levin). After deducting the cost of education, the average total lifetime social gains for a high school graduate is $391,910 per graduate in the State of California, with the savings for black males being the highest at $681,130 (Table 18, Belfield and Levin). My point is not to stereotype but to acknowledge that we need to do everything in our capacity to invest in our high school students to become ready employable adults and/or ready for college, not inmates and/or recruits for drug cartels.
Career and technical training can be a ray of hope for all high school students, not just the disenchanted. Crawford makes a strong case in favor of the trades in Shop Class as Soulcraft, including his highlight on their little recognized intellectual merit, “I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank” (27). With a PhD. he describes a collegiate fall from grace as a blessing because it led him back to his original high school training as a motorcycle mechanic. Crawford describes his own cognitive journey as well as those of other tradesmen he interviewed. The conclusion is worth a new focal point in our education reform. In Crawford’s view “Given the intrinsic richness of manual work— cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education” (27). Some may view this idea as undermining a college education, but what Crawford is really pointing out is that “Practical know-how… is always tied to the experience of a particular person. It can’t be downloaded, it can only be lived” (162). Children and teenagers have always responded positively to the value of hands-on learning, especially when it has a practical application in their lives.
At the age of 16, a teenager’s cognitive maturity starts him or her on the path towards the reality of the adult world and all that entails. You may wonder what cognitive maturity has to do with a broad-based high school career and technical training program, but if students are struggling in school, have no money or family support for college, many see no future in the value of their junior and senior years. Challenged students need full engagement to prevent them from becoming avoidable statistics. By focusing on Math and English proficiency by the end of sophomore year, juniors and seniors can take core subjects and science classes with their half day of training courses to ensure they are ‘college ready’ at graduation. This schedule does not limit a student’s education, it enhances it by making it relevant; it prepares the student both for life and for college should they choose to attend.
Though career and technical training in high school is not the solution for every student, it can serve a healthy percentage of our labor force. Some model programs in the US illustrate the potential of every high school, such as the Howard High School of Technology in Delaware. The 2010 report by the Delaware Department of Education declares, “Howard has a high graduation rate (97 percent) and daily attendance rate (95 percent) and a low serious infraction rate….In addition to an academic program, Howard students choose one of the following career pathways: finance and business; carpentry; computer network administration; cosmetology; culinary arts; dental assisting; electrical trades; engine technology; legal administrative assisting; medical assisting; nursing technology; public service; or structural steel detailing.” This richly diverse program serves a variety of student and community needs. It is a model that deserves replication.
There are still many questions to address in more detail before programs like Howard can be implemented effectively across America. Questions like: How will we pay for this? How can we make a solid case for the benefits of high school career training that will not be sabotaged by budget cuts every time state and federal revenues fluctuate? How can we refocus dollars from punitive institutions to education so we can create a higher skilled work force, reduce high school dropouts and prison populations while also reducing student loan and credit card debt? The answers to these questions and are necessary for the design of lasting and effective education reform that will strengthen our economy and society. Of course, to change the current system, we may also have to challenge for profit college and prison industries that have benefitted by the shrinking of high school career education in the U.S., but it’s a challenge worth taking up.
Belfield, Clive R. and Henry M. Levin. “The Economic Losses From High School Dropouts in California.” University of California, Santa Barbara: California Dropout Research Project Report #1, August 2007. PDF.(Table 18) Web. 7 April 2011.
Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft. New York: The Penguin Press. 2009. Print.
Delaware Department of Education. “Delaware Partnership Zone: Howard High School of Technology.” PDF. 2010. 21 April 2011.
Nielson, Lisa. “Highest Demand Blue Collar Careers.” The Houston Chronicle. 2011. Web. 7 April 2011.
Reynolds Lewis, Katherine. “High College Dropout Rate Threatens US Growth.” The Fiscal Times. October 28, 2010. Web. 22 April 2011.
Wei, Christina Chang. “What is the Price of College?” U.S. Department of Education. December, 2010. PDF. (Table 1). Web. 7 April 2011.
We may not realize it, but for those who have little support in their lives, the little things we do to teach someone about life and their personal potential can have a monumental impact on their future and the future of those they impact. Mentoring is not only imparting wisdom to someone who needs it, it is recognizing and validating the potential of the individual, especially when they may not see it in themselves. A few weeks ago I was reminded of how powerful a mentor can be. Since then, I have been reflecting on the people in my life who did little things that changed the course of what could have been:
- Professor Sheldon Harmatz, high school Science teacher. He always gave me a hard time for missing most of my early morning Science classes for two semesters. Complaining they were too early, I signed up for his late morning Environmental Science class the third semester. Always on time, I became a model student. He reinforced my participation by inviting me to discuss topics over lunch now and then, always professional in every way. Mr. Harmatz gave me a reason to want to go to school. Years later when I returned to Sunnyvale with my three little girls, I looked him up. He had just had his first baby and was SO thrilled to invite us into his home whereas he played the birth video of his first child while we all ate pizza. Sheldon Harmatz was the only teacher during my spotty primary and secondary education who showed me I was worth the effort. He was the only adult in my childhood who spoke out about the necessity for me to be a responsible participant in my education. Mr. Harmatz also fostered the lasting passion for environmental responsibility I have carried into every aspect of my life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDQyoUZB9us&feature=channel_page
- La Leche League International provided me with mentors that lasted for years as I also learned to mentor other mothers. Being a young mother from a difficult childhood, I needed someone to show me a better way to raise my children, a healthier way to bring up my three daughters. The members of La Leche League did this and more. I learned how to handle the challenges of mothering through loving guidance, which to this day, I believe saved me and my children. They showed me how to do it right, even though there were still many imperfect moments of mothering. I had a new model to aspire to other than my own past conditioning. What I received from LLLI (www.llli.org) I also went on to share with my own daughters who are now mothers themselves. This healthy foundation became the philosophy for my work with children throughout my entire life.
- Judy Green and Robert Schellenberger introduced me to the exciting potential of biofeedback and non-traditional counseling methods during my first year of college work study. I studied and worked under Judy Green, daughter of Elmer and Alyce Green—the pioneers of biofeedback—while working at Aims Biofeedback Lab in Greeley, Colorado. This synchronistic experience enhanced the important pieces of a program I would later create and implement during my teaching career. Judy’s husband, Professor Schellenberger insisted we learn actual counseling techniques as freshmen, which we did. Today, my family members still benefit from the Gestalt techniques in dream interpretation I learned in that first year of college.
- Jose Montoya—what a rebel! I remember how impressive it was to find out that his book of poetry was actually banned from the CSUS library in the 70’s, the very same university this Poet Laureate was teaching at when I took his class, Art and The Child. Jose introduced me to Rudolfo Anaya, Caesar Chavez, and active Chicano role models like himself working to improve the lives of immigrants and their children in the U.S. During class, Jose taught us to understand what it was like to be a creative being in a learning environment. Comprehending the purity and necessity of the creative process, I recalled the events from childhood that had stifled much of my own creativity. I promised to help encourage this in all of my future students, a promise I still strive to carry out today. Compassionate activism for the Latino struggle in the U.S. has also become one of my torches thanks to Jose Montoya.
- Doctor Ennis McDaniel gave me the confidence and guidance to become a biofeedback intern and stress management teacher. His phenomenal skills crafted my training, allowing me to find my own style and ability to empower others in their self-awareness and healing. His mentoring gave me the confidence to design innovative biofeedback and relaxation techniques which I utilized to help hundreds of at-risk students. Though Ennis is no longer with us, memories of his wise and gentle spirit continue on.
- Dan Retuta taught me hypnotherapy, intuitive healing, and that healing ourselves was primary before we could be authentic when helping others. His warm guidance, support of my personal process, and complete professionalism gave me a new level of self-worth. I went on to extend this wisdom to my classes where I used these techniques to help students find their own self-worth and inner peace.
- Maria del Rosario Casanova al Caraz is one of the most poignant mentors in my life. She is the grandmother of my goddaughter Alondra in Manzanillo, Colima-Mexico. The mother of ten children, today Rosario is 74. Not only does she make the spiritual trek, walking on foot and camping for 7 days every year to make the pilgrimage up to Il Talpa, she is the most gentle, humble, loving, maternal person I have ever met. The nuances of motherhood and grandmotherhood she has displayed in the twenty something years I have known her are so numerous, gracious, and profound, I will not list them here, save this one. I always feel warmth when I remember they way she showed me how to wash beans. Yes, beans! For about 3-5 minutes, she gently caressed the beans while swishing them in a bowl of fresh water from the pila. This, she said, takes away the gas. No need to boil or soak overnight. The love and care she put into washing those beans for those few minutes was one of the most tender and memorable gestures towards providing nourishment for a family, proving that what we think while we work for our loved ones effects the outcome. Her children and grandchildren have the utmost endearing respect and love for Rosario. I don’t believe I will ever reach her grace and humility, but through her actions and most importantly, her non-reactions, I understand how simple flowing acts of love make life much more harmonious for all mankind.
- Earle J. Conway, former principal of Sierra Mountain High School in Grass Valley, California gave me permission to introduce my programs to his students. His confidence and trust in me—like a supportive parent—allowed me to flourish in my teaching career at this school for over five years. I was given space and the freedom to create a variety of innovative programs for the school’s at-risk students. These programs offered refuge and coping skills, but could not have been possible without Earle’s continual support. At times, those in charge are so threatened by changes that they look past solutions. Earle was a leader who saw the potential in every staff member and gave them the freedom to find what worked best, which brought out the best in everyone, staff and students alike.
- Finally, though there are so many more mentors in my life—like my aunt, my uncle, and my grandmother, I will end this train of thought with one of the most spectacular non-family mentors I was blessed to have known: Robert B. Choate, Jr. whom I knew as Bob. The most interesting thing about Bob is though he died May 3rd of this year at 84 years old and since I last saw him about 1 1/2 years ago, his mentoring continues. We first met in Nevada City. I was running a community meeting to boost support for a skatepark project I had been working on for about five years at that time. Captivated by the cause, Bob stepped in to become a part of our BOD, bringing much needed political savvy to the project. Knowing the power of the media and feeling impressed by my dedication to this youth driven project, Bob went on to nominate me for a Daily Point of Light Award, which I did receive on September 17, 1998. Bob’s national clout (I am only just realizing from the wealth of history in his obituaries this past month) gave us the boost we needed to finally bring our project to completion. (I am now studying how to approach a future campaign of mine from the blueprint of his successful campaign against the junk food industry in the 70’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_B._Choate,_Jr. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/us/13choate.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=robert%20choate&st=cse. Who would have known that an outcast fifteen year-old sitting on that park bench at Fair Oaks Park in Sunnyvale, cutting classes with no hope, no goals, no support for a future, would receive a national award of distinction by a major player like this someday! Bob’s recognition was the ultimate message of what I was capable of and what I had yet to do. Though a book could be written on what Bob taught me in the few years we interacted, there is a particular statement he made to me one day that has inspired me to think bigger regarding the potential I had to help others. He told me, “Christina, you are just a big fish in a small pond”. That statement set me free! It became the impetus to think of my life’s work beyond the borders of Nevada County.
Every one of us has our own mentors, and I have used actual names to recognize the positive impact of my own. The little things we do, the things we say to remind others of their worth and their potential do matter. Words can be as inspiring to the human spirit as they can be inhibiting. To all of the people who are mentors and may not know it, thank you, because what you say and do has unforeseen impacts! You shape our lives, our direction, our self-concepts. Mentoring is the gift that really does keep on giving, like the ripples from a pebble in a pond that often continue further than we realize. This is also a reminder for us to choose our words carefully, because you just never know!