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Category Archives: 2014 Ariana Alvarez

Serving at Prescott Joseph Center for Community Enhancement

Sporadic, but precious memories.

As I’ve had some time now since the end of the fellowship, I’ve been really able to process the journey as a whole. Really, putting it into words is not easy. Therefore, excuse me if this blog entry is a bit all over the place.

I am really missing home- home as in Alameda Point and West Oakland. I’m honestly itching to go back ASAP and eat what I loved to eat, visit the places I loved to visit, and just be there. Fully.

The fellowship officially ended on Sunday, and I flew out to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on Monday morning. I’ve been here at Casa de Los Angeles for about 9 days, and I leave tomorrow. I feel lucky that Micah paved the way for me to be able to return to Casa, it’s just another reason, on top of the endless many, as to why Micah was a true blessing. Being in constant service these past 2 months, and more, has been tiring and a challenge, but so incredibly eye-opening, humbling, healing, liberating, and rewarding! I am happy this is what my summer consisted of.

I really appreciated my last day at PJC. Dr. Burns’ huge smile as I presented my final project was so beautiful to see. I love that I was able to assist him and take some work off his hands- he, and PJC, really deserved it. David, the maintenance guy, intentionally had me leave a tote bag behind so that I “had to” come back to PJC and get it! But, I know I will be back many more times than just once. PJC is really special to me. I love it all!

Though living in community was a really hefty challenge we all had to take on- I’m thankful for it. It was worth every second of both frustration and joy. It stretched us all beyond anything we’d been through before, and it dug some deep into a place of not willing to conform- but the fact that we did, the fact that we had scary conversations, the fact that we supported each other, and more, shows what community really is. It’s intentional, but it’s not easy, and that is ok. It’s more than ok. It’s necessary.

The Micah Fellowship is one that I really cannot express myself about eloquently or efficiently. All I know is that it was life changing and liberating. It has led me into a much more mature knowledge of life around me and where it is that I would like to stand amongst it all. It has shown me how my presence impacts the life of others. And most importantly, it has shown me beauty in the greatest discomfort.

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Love them all!

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Prescott-Joseph Center

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Home ❤

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A’s Game

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A’s Game view- Love Oakland!

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My Final Binder turned in to PJC- SO MUCH PAPER!

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Parents visited me at Potluck! SO happy they came 🙂

The Micah Fellowship is priceless. I am so excited, thrilled, and eager for all those who will experience it. They are all surely to be blessed.

THings-that-change-forever-Mas-Edimburgo

Quote seems prevalent to life right now!

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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez

 

Learning Lessons

This summer has been really good to me. It has challenged me farther than I could have ever imagined, and it has affirmed in ways that have been both unexpected, but very needed.

I think the two greatest things it’s done to me is affirmed to me how large of a role faith plays in my life, and the thought and consideration of future/life plans.

This summer has proven that what seems to be to the most unreachable and most challenging is completely attainable and rewarding if you work hard enough. It has also allowed me to delve into discomfort, both professionally and personally. It has continued to push me to reach out and ask for advice, guidance, silence, and community. It has taught me how important my faith is to me, and how it helps in guiding me to clarity, patience, hurt, truth, and more. It has taught me that it’s okay to not know exactly what I want after I graduate from SMC.

Graduating from SMC is an exciting thought, but one that really makes me sad. I love SMC so much, for it has really given me the world. As naive as it sounds, I wish I could stay forever. Micah has opened my eyes to the possibilities of life after college. All the options are overwhelming, confusing, and intimidating- just as they are motivating. Yet, I think that the biggest thing Micah has taught me in regards to future plans is that I know that whatever I end up doing, it will need to be a place that welcomes in faith, justice, interaction, challenge, and community. Micah has taught me to be okay with not knowing and discomfort. Similarly, it has taught to validate, affirm, and celebrate both my work and feelings. These lessons are lessons I am so incredibly thankful for. I know they will help me and go with me everywhere I go.

I am so appreciative towards all the hands and minds that have put Micah together. It’s an experience that is hard to define with words. But it is surely one that will never escape me.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez

 

Home

The concept of “Home” has been a prevalent one throughout this fellowship. Leaving the comfort of home to make a new home in Alameda and at work was something I knew I’d signed up for this summer, but the action of doing so is much easier said than done. Micah has stretched me to think about what truly makes a home. There’s consideration of the people who live in the home, fairness and respectability, quiet time, community and collaboration, safety, and more. I haven’t had to create “home” just in Alameda Point, but at work as well. Sure enough, there have been great moments of discomfort, happiness, tears, frustration, confusion, sadness, celebration, and joy. I’ve learned that creating “home” is not easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

Just this past Tuesday, an arrest was made in the building next door to our home. The setting was a mixture of happenings- tears, variety of police cars, young children playing and laughing, observant neighbors, non-observant neighbors, and more. From what we saw, a mother was arrested- our neighbor was arrested. Her younger children showed their frustration as they cried and punched, while her older children instinctively took on their new roles of caretakers as they comforted their younger siblings. We, as a house, don’t know exactly what happened in case of the arrest. Nonetheless, we felt it. We felt both the sadness from the family and the normality of it all from the neighborhood. I remember looking up from where we were respectfully watching, and saw tears coming down Lauren’s face. We saw a mother being taken away from her children. It sounds so simple, but it’s really hard to put in words. And literally, it hit so close to home.

Home has proven to be no easy subject. In the same way, home has proven to be the safest, most precious aspect of learning, challenge, community, and self reflection for myself. Alameda Point is home. West Oakland is home. My community is home. Yet, it’s been important for me to recognize that my home impacts and is impacted by the home of others. Seeing the arrest really saddened me, for, I am now connected to this community and don’t wish that upon it. Still, I am aware of the nature of my community as well.

With only two and a half weeks left, I really don’t know what to feel. Leaving home will be hard and exciting as I embark on my senior year. Overall, I really cannot express how thankful I am for my new homes and the lessons I’ve learned from them.

Here are some pictures:

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Alameda Point Antique Fair

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July First Friday

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Hello Kitty on our morning drive to work

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Beautiful park

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Peralta St.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez

 

Faith

I have always had a strong connection to my faith. Of course, as a teenager I went through the all typical rebellious phase of distancing myself completely from my faith. Yet, as I continue in life, faith has proven to be the core to all that keeps me level-headed, reflective, sincere, genuine, patient, and more.

Micah has challenged me in a way that I did not expect in its impact on my faith. In all honesty, initially I lost sight of the benefits I get from constant faithful practice- whether it be praying, attending mass, reading religious text, sitting in silence, etc. In the newness of it all, I got distracted. Now that the halfway point has passed, my mind has been cleared to the realization of how critical an active, faithful life is to me and my well-being. In other words, through moments of confusion, distress, frustration, impatience, and even in moments of happiness, laughter, and love- I’ve been reminded of how important a presence of faith and religious practice is.

Every person I have encountered throughout this journey has been a symbol of how important it is to never lose faith. For, in moments when one loses faith, having someone come in and respectfully guide you back is so precious. It’s something that I’ve discovered society is lacking in. There’s a need for solidarity of hope and faith. I’ve found a need for it both within and outside of my community this summer. It’s a difficult question to ask and take on- how do we genuinely restore faith and hope in people? I ask it to myself daily, and I still can’t give a well formulated answer, and I think that’s okay. It’ll be a lifelong process that I have to embrace- both with the highs and lows. All I know is that I see beauty in my surroundings this summer- all of them- it’s just a constant grasp that I need to have onto my faith to help me through all the details that make up that beauty. Especially in times when that beauty is hard to find.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez

 

Halfway.

I genuinely cannot believe that it’s been 4 weeks already. How? Surely, July will pass just as quickly- especially since the work is starting to amount and move at a pretty fast pace. Yet, I love it. I love all of it. I love Oakland, with a special appreciation for West Oakland. I love Prescott-Joseph Center. I love my housemates. I love the feeling of going home every afternoon. I love our laughter, tears, silence, and community. This experience is truly precious.

Initially- I was extremely intimidated by the work I was expected to do. I had to sit with my emotions every morning before coming to work, assuring myself to ask questions, request feedback and support, and find passion in the work I’ve been doing. Soon enough, that passion was found. Dr. Burns has granted me access to a variety of meetings, tasks, and interactions with local leaders who all work with the same passion and drive to community enhancement and growth of opportunities. It has been in these encounters where I have been able to put a face and a need to the work that I am doing.

The Family Resource Center will serve the West Oakland community well beyond anything I can conceptualize and imagine at this stage. Truly, I feel honored to have some input and impact in its development. I have been working on the development of a volunteer program to be put in action once programming and structure of the FRC is more in place. The more and more I work on it, the more excited and motivated I get. I am happy that Dr. Burns has the same passion and drive for the development of a volunteer program as well! Beyond this, I will begin the research needed for a Child Development Center, which will include a visit to a pre-school. As I complete all of this, I’ll also aim to develop an outline/action plan for potential desired and needed programming for the residents of West Oakland once the FRC is in place. It’s a lot. Yet, there’s not one part of this that I don’t want to accomplish. PJC has grabbed me in a special way- they truly deserve to have this work done.

Aside from all of the technical, applicable things I have learned as I proceed with my To Do lists every day- such as time management (haha!), I’ve learned a lot more. I’ve learned pain, sadness, fear, anger, joy, love, rejection, solidarity, community, strategy, hope, vision, and so much more. I have learned from every person I encounter, every meeting I’ve sat on, every new organization I research, my co-workers, Dr. Burns, David, and more. This community has given me so much insight, rich knowledge and experience, and a look into the beauty and historical transcendence of West Oakland- which brings both joy and pain to many. It’s been a true honor to have engaged in the conversations I have engaged in, and to be surrounded daily by passionate folks who dedicate their lives to this work.

I now see my work as much more than researching, reading, planning, organizing, and creating documents. It’s beautiful, priceless, challenging, and motivating.

I am not too sure what I’ll continue to learn as I go on with these next weeks. All I know is that it will all be such a treasure. I’ve reflected and learned more than I could have genuinely imagined for myself. I will continue to listen, ask, and support all who I work with. I will continue to connect with all who I encounter. I will continue to not be afraid of sitting with their sadness, fear, anger, happiness, laughter, and more. Nor, will I be afraid to sit with my own, or those of my housemates. For, in doing this, I’ve found such love and admiration for this experience.

These four weeks have been liberating, to say the least.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez

 

Valued Commitment

Michael Sanders analyzes historical occasions revolving around political dialogues that questioned whether or not morals and values should be brought into decision making, and the overall discussion. Through his analysis, Sanders illustrates the way in which thinking about justice in terms of the common good of others and incorporating moral engagement into conversations is better than “a politics of avoidance.” He concludes that it’s this practice that will lead us to a more promising good for society. In other words, it’s important to be engaged with the well-being of those surrounding you, rather than being ignorant and simply thinking in a simple, black and white sense. I loved the line, “Justice is not only about the right way to distribute things. It is also about the right way to value things.” (261)

I really appreciated the honesty that Sanders presents. I really love being able to engage in conversations with friends, family, strangers, anyone really, about faith, morals, society’s values, and more. I think it’s unfortunate so many stray away from these conversations, for whatever reasons they do. I loved his quoting of Obama, “Our fear of getting ‘preachy’ may…lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our mist urgent social problems.” (246) I could not agree more. The social problems attacking society today require much more than quick decisions. They require attention to detail and true dedication to those it will affect most, and least. Having such transparent, explicit honesty will allow society to find commonalities in the passion for justice, regardless of labels and identifiers. For, when we focus too much on monitoring those, we’re focusing on ourselves, not the common good of others.

Beyond this, I loved the mentioning of Martin Luther King Jr. and his use of morals and values in the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Truly, I appreciated the entire article.

This article allowed me to think of how I’ve been using morals and values in my work here at Prescott-Joseph Center and my living community. In terms of my living community, I’ve been challenged to accept where I have been falsely placing value on items and possessions. Now that I am limited, I’ve been realizing the beauty in simplicity while facing the reality that I can choose simplicity, while my neighbors might not have had the choice. Nonetheless, I am thankful for my current place in life. I am learning, being challenged, I am healthy, excited, nervous, inspired, grateful, and forever impacted. My heart is intensely intertwined in this fellowship, and Sanders piece affirms my use of morals, values, and faith into my experiences and how I share those with others.

The 5 people I live with will forever hold value in my heart and will forever be attributed to my love and passion for justice and hope.

At PJC I have learned the importance of putting your heart into all you do. I’ve learned it from David, who does maintenance, just as I have learned it from Dr. Burns. What drives PJC is the value they place on the people of West Oakland. They see hope in them, they believe in them, and they want to help them in their success, and struggles. There is no hiding of morals, values, and faith in discussions that occur at PJC. PJC is committed. It’s beautiful, really. In helping develop the Family Resource Center, everything that I take into consideration has to be of true help for the community. It’s clear to me that the issues the FRC wants to tackle are not simple, they are complex, embedded, stigmatized, not spoken enough of, and often ignored. I have to value the work that I do in order for it to do good for the community. If I was just doing aimless work, what would be the point?

 

Bringing Hope Back to West Oakland

Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement (PJC) is a non-profit organization here in West Oakland. It was founded in 1995, and was once a former convent. It now serves as a center that is open to the needs of the community through education, culture, and development. It’s purpose is to enhance the well-being of the community, promoting mobility and participation in the re-development of West Oakland. As PJC has stated before, “It aims to build the community by building the individual.” And as Dr. Burns has said, PJC strives to “bring hope back to West Oakland.”

 

PJC’s mission is three-fold:

1. To promote the individual self-esteem of citizens in the community through education, skill training and cultural programs, thus supporting healthy families and economic self-sufficiency.

2. To promote the on-going renewal of community spirit among West Oakland residents.

3. To organize and promote community activities that facilitate economic and community development in West Oakland.

 

In its hope to accomplish all of the above, PJC is in the process of establishing a Family Resource Center. This is where I come in! I have been working closely with Dr. Burns, the Executive Director, in my conduction of research and planning for the Family Resource Center. Given that I have had two Micah predecessors, I am now taking on the detailing and documentation of core and comprehensive services to be offered by PJC. In addition to determining details such as content, length, and place of programs, I am also working on the development of a volunteer program for PJC.

 

Thankfully, Saint Mary’s students from Professor Ahnen’s class conducted a really thorough survey in which they asked residents of West Oakland what they’d like to see PJC offer. In analyzing their responses, we are being intentional with the potential programs we’d like to put in place. Therefore, I am intently researching on ESL programs, offering yoga, career counseling, and more.

 

For the first time ever, I am doing work that requires me to be behind a desk and computer. I have always been used to being involved in the action part of non profit, so being on the administrative/research side of it all has been really challenging. I have to consistently work to not distract myself, as well as find new and creative approaches to the work that I am doing. It is very much self directed work, with the support and supervision of Dr. Burns. Therefore, at times it can be hard to figure out what to do. Yet, through this all I have learned so much. For, PJC is the true definition of an organization that acts with the community in mind. They do not provide programs just to provide them. Rather, they provide programs that the community requests. Their approach has taught me the foundations of non profit work, and what it actually looks like to take theory, outline it, plan it, and implement it. For, like I mentioned before, my comfort and experience is in taking part of what has already been implemented, never the planning. Therefore, I could not be more thankful for these experiences, for I am gaining a well rounded look into the non profit world.

 

I hope I continue to learn details, processes, and more regarding this work. Given how I have already been learning this, I can only imagine with 6.5 weeks will deliver! I also hope that by continuing to attend PJC programs, like the Parent Cafe and Healing Art classes, the value of my work will continue to reveal itself. I am so excited for the children to start coming through PJC once school ends as well 🙂


For PJC, I really hope to deliver detailed outlines and plans for programs within the Family Resource Center. Specifically, I really hope to break some ground in the planning on an ESL program, Yoga classes, job training, and a volunteer program. I would love to make strides in my planning so that they can hit the ground running with these programs once the Family Resource Center is in place. I know these next weeks will fly past me, and having these set will be overwhelming, but I will do as much as I can. For, I hope to continue my relationship with PJC beyond the Micah Fellowship. They truly care about West Oakland, and they believe in West Oakland and I feel lucky to be here. I want to see the PJC Family Resource Center succeed, and I hope to play a small role in that.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in 2014 Ariana Alvarez