Paola's Story

“I believe that the characteristics of a resilient person would be someone who is strong in many ways, but especially strong-willed and can mentally prepare themselves to overcome obstacles."

With her strong work ethic and positive attitude, Paola has achieved a great deal during her time with the San José Conservation Corps & Charter School (SJCC & CS). She completed four AmeriCorps terms of service, obtained her high school diploma, and successfully gained hands-on job experience in the Corps’ Environmental Projects and Recycling Departments. Amazingly, she accomplished all this while also taking college classes and managing the responsibilities of being a single mother to her 3-year-old daughter.

Before joining SJCC & CS, Paola had cycled through three high schools and reached a point where she did not believe obtaining a diploma was a realistic goal. Disappointed in her choices, Paola’s family did not want her at home, giving her few other options but to live out of her car with friends.  However, as Paola says, “homelessness” was not new to her. Brought to the United States illegally at a young age, Paola had been deported to Mexico three times.

With this uncertainty, Paola’s family thought her time would be better spent working than trying to get her diploma. Despite this, Paola was determined to go back to school. Pregnant with her daughter, she wanted to set a good example for her child and teach her the value of education.

At SJCC & CS, Paola quickly made an impression on the staff. She was able to connect with people who shared similar stories. While working toward her diploma, she and her family received asylum and the opportunity to pursue permanent resident status.

Paola worked her way up in the Corps and earned a promotion to the SJCC & CS Internship Program, which allows her to continue working full-time with SJCC & CS and attend Evergreen Community College, where she is putting her AmeriCorps Education Awards toward a degree in psychology. In the Recycling Department, Paola assists the management team and has been instrumental in correcting and improving many processes and data functions.

Outside her assigned responsibilities, Paola has gone above and beyond by attending volunteer activities on the weekends. Additionally, she helps her peers register for college, update their résumés, and access support services. She has been selected to represent her peers at several speaking engagements and recruitment events, including being chosen as the graduation speaker.

Paola hopes to pursue a career in social work. While studying, she plans to hold an internship that provides her with hands-on experiences within the social system. She hopes to one day work with teenagers who are dealing with life issues and is also interested in working to advocate for families in need of services.

“I believe that the characteristics of a resilient person would be someone who is strong in many ways, but especially strong-willed and can mentally prepare themselves to overcome obstacles,” said Paola. “They would have to be able to overcome difficult situations and not only overcome, but also learn from the situations to then be able to reach out to help others.”

Alexis Bach
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"I think it’s important to make the connection between leadership development and education."
Ely Flores
"During my time at the LA CAUSA YouthBuild program in East Los Angeles, I discovered that I was indeed a leader and that there were leadership assets within me and within my community."