Unafraid to Dream, Thanks to the Partnership for HOPE!

Fabiola Fabian remembers the moment with razor sharp clarity.  Standing behind her front door, out of sight, but still able to hear the thoughtless comment from her neighbor as she spoke to Fabiola’s mom, “Your daughter might as well not work so hard to get good grades, she’ll just end up working at McDonald’s anyway.”  This cruel comment frightened Fabiola. As an undocumented child without legal status, she began to doubt if her dream to graduate college and become a registered nurse was really something she could achieve.

For a brief time, Fabiola let her neighbor’s insensitive words derail her academic efforts.  Fabiola didn’t work quite so hard; she no longer pushed herself in her studies to get top scores.  Her mother knew something was wrong.  She knew her daughter had always had a strong desire to go to college and normally gave her best effort to everything she tried. So Fabiola’s mother reassured her that she could accomplish anything Fabiola set out to achieve. She told her not to let the short-sighted expectations of others write her future. Fabiola says, “After that, I used my neighbor’s heartless comment as motivation to work even harder.”

Unfortunately, hard work was not enough to secure her college dream. Fabiola found that her legal status as an undocumented resident made it more difficult to navigate the system of college admissions and financial aid. Her high school guidance counselor was at a loss to know how to help her.

Left alone to figure it out, Fabiola discovered CSU Northridge was a college that honored the California education code known as AB540. This code grants undocumented students who have attended at least three years of high school in California and who have graduated from high school, the option to pay in-state tuition, as opposed to higher out-of-state tution fees.  CSU Northridge also helped Fabiola secure her status as a DREAM act student which brought Fabiola relief and renewed hope for her academic future.

Additionally, Fabiola discovered a huge resource in the affordable housing community where she lived with her parents and siblings. Fabiola embraced the opportunity to apply for AMCAL’s Partnership for HOPE scholarship program every semester she attended and this financial support made the difference between success and defeat in reaching her goal. Over the course of her college years Fabiola was awarded a total of $14,570 as a recipient of the Partnership for HOPE Fund.  

Fabiola is no longer frightened of what her future will hold. This last May, Fabiola walked across the stage to accept her college degree–a BS in Public Health.  Now with her college degree in hand, she is one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a registered nurse.  Soon she plans to enroll in UCLA’s nursing program and eventually apply for a Master’s degree in Public Health. Her current success continues to fuel her desire to reach for more.  Fabiola shared this hashtag to encourage others who are just like her: #undocumentedandunafraid.

Editor’s note: Fabiola credits the role her parents have played in her life in shaping her determination to achieve her dreams.  She has watched both of her parents work extremely hard and watched them struggle to provide for her and her siblings. They instilled in their daughter the value of education in determining one’s future. Fabiola looks forward to the day when she is self-sufficient and can help support her parents and serve her community in gratitude for all she has been given. 

To learn more about the AMCAL Partnership for HOPE, click here. 

July Story of the Month: Central Valley Family Overwhelmed with Gratitude

Kids get stomach aches. They get upset tummies for so many reasons: the first day of school, the first day of vacation, pretty much the first day of anything new and sometimes because they ate too many gummy bears before dinner.  When *Patricia’s daughter, Emily, 9, complained her stomach hurt for four days in a row, Patricia knew this was something more serious — and she was right. By the fourth day Emily was in excruciating pain.

Patricia drove her daughter to the closest hospital in Coalinga, but after a brief exam they sent her home. The next day her daughter’s pain was even worse. Barely able to stand and with a blistering hot fever, Patricia drove her straight to Valley Children’s Hospital, 72 miles and over an hour away! A CT scan revealed a ruptured appendix and the risk of the infection spreading from the appendix to other organs was life threatening.

For the next eight days Patricia rarely left her daughter’s side. As a single mom with no family in the area, it was her job alone to comfort her, offer her ice chips when thirsty, and search the hospital room’s TV channels to find her favorite shows. Most importantly, it was her job to keep her daughter feeling safe and loved. Every time the nurse came to draw blood, Patricia was there to hold her hand.

Fortunately, Emily responded to the antibiotics and was released to her mother’s care. After a total of 14 days Patricia was finally able to return to work. She was grateful she had been allowed the time off; however, it came at an incredibly high price. Patricia had received no pay for 14 days and had used up all her savings to pay for the long trips to Valley Children’s Hospital and the meals she had while there. Her July rent was coming due — this time the uncomfortable feeling in her stomach was the realization that there wasn’t enough money in her bank account to pay it. At that time, Patricia had lived at her Villa Esperanza apartment for over eight years — the only home her daughter had ever known. The thought of losing it was unbearable.

As a resident of AMCAL’s Villa Esperanza community, Patricia discovered the Partnership for HOPE Fund was available in a financial crisis like hers. With the help of Judith, her Director of Social Services, she completed an application for rental assistance through AMCAL’s Partnership for HOPE and was granted a one-time rental assistance of $400 toward her July rent. Judith also helped her apply for utility assistance through the PG&E CARE program, which will save her in the coming months on her electric bills, and she will work with Patricia to develop a budget to include a savings plan for future emergencies. The relief Patricia felt overwhelmed her with gratitude.

Emily has been out of the hospital a little over a month now. She has her bounce back and a big friendly smile on her face. She is expecting to have surgery to remove her appendix in September, but for now she is enjoying the rest of her summer. Together this family of two learned the value of having someone by their side when times are tough. Both would like to do something for their community to show how thankful they are. Patricia plans on volunteering at the next community potluck, and Emily wants to help out the younger kids in the after-school program with their math (since this is her strongest subject).

Overall, Patricia and Emily have come through this critical time stronger and more hopeful — not a bad outcome from what started as a tummy ache.

*Names have been changed.

New Partnerships to Bring Food to Older Adults

There is nothing more basic to our humanity than the need for food. When the results from a recent LifeSTEPS resident survey showed over 50% of our seniors were food insecure here in the Sacramento area, we knew something had to be done.

Experiences working with older adults has shown there are multiple reasons a senior may be food insecure. Often seniors just have very little disposable income to use for food after other basics like housing and health care are paid for. They will choose to stay housed and continue to take life-saving medicines on their meager fixed incomes — their grocery list will be the first thing they cut.

Another key factor in obtaining groceries is transportation. Older adults have an extremely difficult time since many have given up their vehicles due to either age or lack of income. Navigating the bus system to get groceries is tricky — especially when you are older and frail. And there are some older residents who simply are homebound — they are physically unable to leave their apartments.

Here in Sacramento we are blessed to have several great non-profits that help thousands of Sacramento low income residents to have additional food resources. We are working with both Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and River City Food Bank to bring our residents food.  Recently our Sacramento Director of Social Services, Monique Osborn, facilitated a partnership with the River City Food Bank’s Food Commodity Program. LifeSTEPS has collaborated with River City Food Bank to open food distribution programs at four SHRA properties and out of 178 eligible 60+ seniors, 125 seniors are now receiving boxes of food and bags of perishables!

There were a few obstacles that LifeSTEPS staff had to work through in starting up the Food Commodities Program, such as how to help those seniors who could not carry a food box from the community room to their apartment. We now have resident volunteers to assist. Another difficulty was the sign up process. Some seniors were not able to come to the center to sign up, so LifeSTEPS staff, alongside two representatives from RCFB, went door to door to sign them up. If seniors were not going to be home or were homebound, they met with their caretakers. One by one they took every opportunity to spread the word and allow all in need to participate.

The rewards have been heartwarming and tangible. Neighbors are helping each other with getting their food boxes — building trusting relationships in the process and seniors like Lorraine are very grateful for the help. “I’m so happy you found a way to get us food. We have been in need for so long.” –Lorraine (Pine Knoll)

Take Action to Support Older Adults

The future of health care is unclear and news is flying fast and furious… but we do know that older adults are particularly vulnerable. These services, like in-home supportive services (IHSS), provide critical care that helps people like the thousands of older adults we serve across California thrive in place.
We have tracked this – when our residents have access to IHSS, about 2% of them each year leave their homes to skilled nursing facilities. When they don’t have this access? 18% leave their homes prematurely and move into nursing homes. Older adults state clearly that they want to stay in their homes. It is humane and dignified.
Not to mention – Did you know that in-home supportive services (IHSS) cost taxpayers about $10,000 a year, while a skilled nursing facility costs $60,000, according to a 2009 report from the CA Senate?
Please, call your Senators – and keep calling – and urge them to draft legislation that protects older adults.
Learn more at Justice in Aging.