21 Jan Meet Joe
Like my dad, I was born in inner City New York, where I, my parents, and my older sister lived. My parents had the best of intentions for our family when they decided to move us from the inner city’s bad happenings. My family traveled and moved many times, inevitably ending up with us living in Framingham, Massachusetts for most of my years. When I was 17, I moved to Washington state to the city of Kennewick. The move from the city life near Boston to the rural life of the Tri-Cities was quite a challenge for me. However, it didn’t take too long to grow to love many aspects of the diverse community of the Tri-Cities.
I fell in love with the Mexican community. I am a Latino American man. My mother is Mexican and my father is Puerto Rican but, I had very little exposure to the Mexican culture. My entire life, I have had a sensitivity to injustice. I believe, that is where my desire to work with marginalized youth came from. As a child, I had the privilege of many adventures traveling through the school systems, seeing what worked, and what didn’t, and yet by the time I was 16 I found myself disrupting the system by becoming a trouble maker.
Most days I would be in the principal’s office, and or suspended from school. I knew the school system perhaps better than some of my peers, and I definitely felt the aches and pains of what wasn’t working and perhaps even some of the things that could be implemented so that as a student, you don’t feel so lost with no one to really turn to. Maybe creating programs or cultures that could focus more on the student’s needs emotionally while balancing their performance academically.
For me, it wasn’t until I encountered the Love of God that my life began to change. It truly is amazing what that kind of love does to our hearts. Somewhere along the line my love and compassion for injustice and people were lost or at least misplaced, and through the Love of God, I found it again. Everything from that point moved quickly, changing both my academic performance and even directionally where I wanted to go as a career. I knew at some level I wanted to be in ministry, and have ventured on many different outlets to try and see where I fit in the scheme of things.
Today I work for the Center for Sharing as a content developer. A big part of my job is capturing and sharing moments/stories to share them in marketing pieces to help get the word out for the need for us as individuals and communities to partner together to foster a more just society. One where people are growing, becoming healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely to serve others. I also have the opportunity to help up front and behind the scenes at the Collegium Café. The Collegium’s main purpose is so that people can casually meet, get to know each other while over time developing stronger social networks and a deeper sense of community in a café setting. I am blessed to bring that same spirit that saved my life to the table for high schoolers as I get to lead one of the work training programs offered through the Collegium Café for teenagers, to help develop their skills, including their emotional and relationship building ones.
Much of what I have gone through has given me the ability to connect with people at various levels, but it has also created a lot of challenges. Since coming to the Center for Sharing, much of the trauma I had experienced through my lifetime had come to the surface, and I began to realize the effect it had not just on my personal life, but on my ministry as well. I have seriously enjoyed working, learning, healing, and fostering together with the Center for Sharing and the amazing community I am surrounded by.