In an increasingly globalized world, it is even harder to imagine one person really being able to make a difference. As the VOM Rotary finally reconvened last week for our weekly in person breakfast meeting at the new Oak, I was reminded of just why I joined 10 years ago. I sought to make a greater impact on the health and support of those in our county who are most vulnerable. In the context of our club, this initially consisted of being part of a group effort to aid those most vulnerable and, in particular to support organizations assisting the disadvantaged youth struggling right here.
But the meeting this day was different. I was to introduce our speaker, Oscar Villalobos Campos, a quiet and very mature 20 year-old Mexican-American young man who is about to enter his senior year at UC-Riverside. It had been an action packed 6 years since I first met Oscar and began mentoring him as he started his junior year at Piner. It was through one of the VOMR’s favorite youth advocate partners, 10,000 Degrees, that Oscar and I began an amazing journey together. The program matches adults who are eager to work with high schoolers who need additional support due to various reasons. There are parts of our city that bear no resemblance to the neighborhoods you and I call home.
Places where the difficulties facing adolescents are amplified by the realities of their everyday lives. Gang violence, crime and drug use create a terrifying world. To dream of something different for yourself seems a total waste of time if not hopelessly naïve. As I introduced Oscar, it really hit me just who he had become in such a seemingly short time. That is not to say that in the beginning he wasn’t bright, inquisitive, clever and determined, but now there was an air of confidence and most importantly, a sense of purpose.
As Oscar spoke of his life, being a first-generation immigrant who was always was a bit different from the other kids, who had to walk a fine line as an ‘In Betweener,’ it was clear he wanted to break the mold, to achieve something. His is a wonderful family but for parents who both work hard and have to care for his younger siblings, there was only so much support they could provide. Oscar referenced how our get togethers provided some real support and that it was the one-on-one aspect that made them so effective. He went on to describe his path through the SRJC and then to being accepted by UC-Riverside. And here he is now, a Sociology major who is currently working for the Santa Rosa Neighborhood Services Department at a summer camp for disadvantaged kids from 3-6th grade. The passion with which he spoke about helping these youngsters deal with so many issues was simply inspiring. As I looked at him field questions from the group. All I could see was this articulate and charismatic communicator who is strong, kind and thoroughly genuine. It left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will continue striving to make a difference in the lives of children who are struggling. Kids who remind him of who he is and where he came from. It was then, that I was reminded of my other Rotary lesson; one person really CAN make a difference. Stay tuned, you may have a chance to cast a vote for Oscar someday, you never know. The sky’s the limit.