Pursuing your passion; remembering your roots

Brenda's family

I love summer for many reasons, but one of them may surprise you - it’s the season when I get to spend time with our summer interns. Every year, starting in June, these young students help remind me why I do the work that I do.

When I first meet the new interns, most of them ask me the same questions: “How did you start your career, and what led you to your role at the Foundation?”  When this happens, instead of telling them about law school or my first job in health advocacy, I always go farther back, and start with my personal story.
 
I grew up in San Francisco as a child of immigrant parents. My mom and dad struggled to navigate the healthcare system because of language and access challenges. Thankfully, there was one place that my family could rely on, and that was Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC), a community health center that still exists today in San Francisco’s Mission District. At MNHC, my parents found a beacon that not only provided health care, but was also a resource for dealing with the social and cultural challenges that they faced. This included getting my parents enrolled in English language classes, providing transportation to appointments, connecting them to job training, and more. With this support, my parents were able to successfully adapt to their new country, learned English, bought a home, and put their four kids through college.
 
It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I truly recognized the impact that MNHC had on my family and my life. At that moment, I decided that I would dedicate my career to helping other vulnerable families have access to the services and support they need to achieve their own American dreams.

So why do I share this story with our interns every summer? I share it because I want them to understand why I am so personally committed to the work that I do at BSCF. And because I want them to have the chance, like I did, to align their work with something they believe in and find purpose in their careers.  I know that MNHC not only gave me and my family a healthy start, it is what put me on the successful path I’m on today.  Doing work that benefits the health, safety, and success of underserved families across California is why I enthusiastically get up to go to work each morning. So as summer wraps up and the interns move on, I sit and reflect on how lucky and proud I am to be part of the BSCF team, and hope that my story inspires at least one of them to follow in my footsteps.

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