I grew up in the Mexican immigrant inner-city community of East Los Angeles, California. On weekends I worked with my grandfather rehabilitating houses in South Central Los Angeles and remember seeing them destroyed by the riots of 1992. At this time I was also a volunteer at L.A. County’s Children’s Hospital. During these formative years, I made the distinct connection between my sense for social justice and my love for science and working with younger children. By the age of 10, I definitively decided that I was going to become a community medical doctor who worked to positively impact the lives of children and their communities.
As an American Studies major in college, I spent most of my time sitting around in a circle, talking about our nation’s problems. By the time graduation rolled around, I was eager to get out into the world and make a difference. I joined AmeriCorps and recruited and trained reading tutors for the public school system. It was the first time I truly understood that one’s zipcode could determine their destiny. At the same time, I saw the transformational impact that an individual teacher could have with a group of children, and I was inspired to become a teacher.