Chattanoogan since 2014
What do you do for work? What is your role in the community?
I am a Marriage Family Therapist at the Family Justice Center where I lead counseling groups in the schools. I am also the founder of the Resilience Documentary Fund where I produce films on racial equity and the resiliency of immigrant youth in public education.
When we saw a crisis begin to strike our city, what were your first thoughts when deciding to step up for your community?
I felt alive when the opportunity came to help. Like many others, during the early weeks of the pandemic, I felt trapped at my house. And I couldn't stop thinking about the needs of our community; particularly the families that experienced loss due to the tornado. So when a friend called me to help as a translator at Auburn Hills Trailer Park, I was ready to get to work! And seeing the residents of this neighborhood come together to rebuild their neighborhood has been incredible to watch.
Who are some of your own heroes that inspire you?
Public school educators. They serve beyond their job description and teach me that vulnerability is something beautiful and manageable.
What has been the greatest challenge for you in 2020?
The hardest challenges for me were experiencing the grief of losing my friend Miguel due to Covid and managing the fears of almost losing my brother to Covid. Both of these occurred at the same time and were painful to manage.
What has been the most rewarding part of 2020?
My church family - New City East Lake. I don’t have an immediate family in Chattanooga, which is very odd for a Guatemalan, so my church family has been a blessing. Their love and support have kept me grounded.
What advice would you give yourself/what would you tell yourself as preparation for all that you would see and experience in 2020 before it actually began?
To be sincere with myself. One of the hardest things for me this year was dealing with my irritability, which was due to many unexpected changes. I had plans and projects that had to be canceled or postponed, and not being able to visit schools and engage with the students that I regularly see was difficult. Being honest with myself about the feelings that come with these changes would certainly help.