Story from Jim Haugli, State Director of Florida’s Farmworker Career Development Program
Diego Brito enrolled in the Orange County Farmworker Career Development Program (FCDP) on January 12, 2015. He came from Mexico as a young boy and is the only sibling to graduate high school and to continue his education. Diego has four much older brothers and one younger than himself.
Diego contacted the FCDP office and made an appointment to come in. The office expedited his paperwork and he was approved for the program. Diego went home and shared the good news with his mother. She knew that not having Diego’s current salary would put a hardship on her family financially, but she saw the excitement in his eyes and told him, “If this is really what you want then do it…..do something better with your life son.”
Diego exhibits all the qualities of a great employee. He has a passion for learning and creating great works of welding art. He helps his peers and mentors new students. Throughout his tenure in class, he had the opportunity to build many projects. He chose to use this new found knowledge of welding and welding art sculpting at METAL MORPHISIS, a business located in Winter Garden, Florida.
Diego’s welding practice was real-world which made his daily practice in welding realistic and challenging. Diego welcomes constructive criticism when other students would become defensive. He felt it was a way to fine tune his knowledge and skills in welding fabrication. Diego often said, “You cannot go to the store and buy a bag of knowledge or experience. It has to be earned by practicing every day.”
After completing the welding program at Westside Tech, Diego started working at Metal Morphisis, LLC as a welder making $12.50 an hour. After 2 months his pay was raised to $14.00 an hour. This is very rare for a student fresh out of class (a greenhorn) to earn these frequent pay raises. Diego wants to continue working during the day and attend Seminole State College at night to earn his degree in Business Management. His dream is to open his own welding company someday.
His instructor said, “Diego is one of the many talented and structured students to attend my program at Westside Campus. His eagerness to learn and love for the trade of welding will make him successful and take him to new boundaries with great rewards.”
Diego said, “Every step of my welding career has been a personal achievement. If it wasn’t for programs like the Farmworkers Program I don’t know where I would be today. I’m living proof the program does work.”
Diego was chosen as the Florida Farmworker Career Development Program Participant of the Year. He was honored at the FCDP Annual Conference in August in Orlando.
Story from California Human Development
When Frances Ortiz-Chavéz was a teenager, she spent her summers picking California’s peaches and tomatoes. Today, she uses her hands for more delicate work, but the impact of her time spent in the fields remains—and speaks clearly—through the art she creates. ‘From the first day I walked into an all English-speaking classroom, I turned to art as a way to express my deepest feelings and a way to fit in,” says Ortiz-Chavéz.
Born in Mexico, Francisca (Frances) and her family immigrated to Arizona when she was 10 years old. She became “Frances” when her teacher declared that “Francisca“ was too difficult to say. But, despite language and cultural challenges, Frances did well in school. She graduated with her class but found few options in Arizona and decided to move to Napa to be with her sister. Little did she know her life was about to change course dramatically.
“It was 1973, I was living at my sister’s home on Soscol Avenue and I needed work badly,” says Frances. “Everyone kept telling me to just walk two houses down to Aurelio Hurtado’s office. So I did, and that was the beginning of great things for me!”
A leading activist for farmworker rights, Sr. Aurelio Hurtado is the co-founder of California Human Development (CHD), a non-profit dedicated to assisting farmworkers and others of low income. He arranged a full-time job for Frances at the Veterans Hospital In Yountville.
“CHD paid my salary for the first few months and that got me going,” says Frances. “I credit Aurelio and CHD for setting me on a powerful and positive course.”
From the Veterans Hospital, Frances went on work as a Bilingual Instructional Assistant and school secretary with Napa Valley School District—a job Aurelio also helped to arrange. In 2003, she was appointed to the school board of the Napa Valley Union School District and has run unopposed every term since. In 2007, she opened Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center in Napa and served as center director for six years. Most recently, Frances helped co-found and is the current co-chair of the Napa Valley Latino Heritage Committee.
“Sr. Aurelio was a pioneer; he inspired me to bring the Latino voice to the forefront and to work for social justice in our schools and our community. I’m proud to be able to follow in his footsteps,” she says.
Frances also never gave up her art; she continues to create beautiful and powerful work depicting the Latino experience.
Previously published in the Proteus May 2016 Newsletter
After a series of referrals and one phone call, Tylar H. contacted the Proteus Inc. office in Kokomo, Indiana. He was unsure if Proteus could help him, but was willing to take the chance.
He had graduated from Ivy Tech Community College with a degree in Criminal Justice and was starting his journey to the Indiana State Police Academy. The fact that he speaks three languages, graduated Ivy Tech with honors, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa was incredible when you consider he was working and volunteering in the community while attending school. His hard work in high school, college, and volunteer work had finally paid off. He was achieving a goal he had set many years ago. The Indiana State Police Academy wanted HIM. Tylar knew the police academy training is intense and lasts several months, but through online classes he still wanted to extend his education at Ivy Tech Community College in order to further educate himself in criminal justice and the law.
However, after paying his way through college, Tylar simply did not have the funds to pay for the additional costs of living, equipment, and supplies he needed for the State Police Academy, as well as his upcoming career costs. His hard work and efforts seemed to simply not be enough.
Because of his farmworker and life experiences, he was eligible for the National Farmworkers Job Program. His excitement and gratitude for the funding that would allow him the ability to obtain the gear and supplies he needed was incredible. While information gathering and contact was difficult given the intensity of the academy, his approval was finalized and he became a Proteus client. Through a series of Sunday afternoon conversations and meetings, he received funds that have allowed him to progress in his education, continue in the academy, and pay his travel expenses, as well as purchase the supplies that he will need. He will graduate and be inducted into the Indiana State Police in May 2016.
Tylar is attending school to earn a position on the Indiana State Police force. Here he looks out over the fields that made him.
His drive to progress himself and his community is amazing and is instantly recognizable. The fact that he has been able to development a goal, maintain the steps in order to accomplish his goal, and achieve so much in such a short period of time has allowed him to develop into an amazing individual who will serve his community and state well. His strength and endurance through work and school allowed him to identify with the public, which he so wishes to protect and serve.
The work of Proteus employees on Tylar’s behalf is a testament to the life changing ability that Proteus has on the farmworkers and their lives. Additionally, the changes that Proteus provides goes beyond out clients and extends throughout our community, state, and the future of the many individuals that will be touched by our clients achievements.
A former Proteus client, Nilsa Rodriguez, is having great success with her new business: “Fiesta Super Movil” or “Party on Wheels”. The event planning and recreation business started with the assistance of Proteus partner, the Nebraska Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP) Program. Anna Santos, case manager in Columbus, Nebraska, tells this story:
Nilsa lives in Schuyler and spent many years working as a seasonal farmworker for Monsanto. She had dreams for herself that started with becoming a Proteus client. Nilsa began taking English as a second language (ESL) classes and was conversant enough to move onto the next step. She explored occupations and was thinking about becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA), but eventually she realized that she was an entrepreneur at heart.
As her case manager, I helped Nilsa make the connection with the REAP Program. REAP provides the business education and financing needed by budding business people. It is a “mini-incubator of rural entrepreneurs.”
After completing her REAP classes, Nilsa was able to take her idea of becoming a party planner and turn it into a real business. Armed with a business plan, insurance knowledge, accounting and tax systems information, and a support system to be there for questions going forward, Nilsa was ready!
With a grant from REAP, Nilsa was able to purchase bouncy houses, tables and chairs. She was also able to put a building on her property to store supplies and decorations. She even purchased a trailer so that she could move her equipment from place to place. Currently “Fiesta Super Movil” – “Party on Wheels” is doing well enough that Nilsa can support her family, including a new baby born in 2015.
With the services provided by Proteus and REAP, Nilsa no longer has to spend her time laboring in the cornfields of Nebraska. She has the flexibility to be at home with her children while she operates a successful business in her community. And because of her determination to become bi-lingual with the help of Proteus and her ESL classes, Nilsa is not limited to doing business only with Spanish-speaking customers!
– See more at: http://www.proteusinc.net/2015/09/september-2015-newsletter/#party