From Southern California to Sacramento: Finding Community at the McCarthy Center
In this week’s blog, Joshua Dineros ’23 tells his story as student from Southern California navigating his way through college, strengthening his passions, and finding his community in the Bay Area. Find out how Joshua fostered his values of public service and civic engagement as a USFVotes team member, McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento, and Community Empowerment Activist.
I remember the rain. It was a cold and cloudy day just before the presidential elections in November 2020. I was a first-year student at the University of San Francisco living, working, and studying in Southern California because of the COVID-19 lockdown. My college career started on zoom—including my search for a community at USF—something I would ultimately find at the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.
USFVotes was my first introduction to the McCarthy Center and the movement work that the center seeks to accomplish at USF. I have had the opportunity of completing the McCarthy Fellowship in Sacramento and the Community Empowerment Activists program. Along the way, I have met my greatest friends and mentors while developing soft and hard skills that I will continue to utilize professionally. From the beginning, USFVotes taught me essential online organizing skills.
We had to meet students where they were—a core value of public service that I harness in the McCarthy Center programs…
The recurring question was: How do you get students to vote while stuck at home during a pandemic? The short answer was: We had to meet students where they were—a core value of public service that I harness in the McCarthy Center programs and beyond. Social media became a defining factor in reaching students. Video projects, infographics, and public speaking were vital skills that I learned during my virtual year of college but are skills that I have continued to grow in the years since then. As student organizers, we could not ignore the reality of the pandemic thrusting the elections into the limelight in every conversation we had. USFVotes became that reminder of the power and purpose of voting for national and local candidates—especially when their vote could drastically change who represented them on the city council and issues that mattered to them such as the pandemic.
Civic engagement has become a cornerstone of who I am and a defining attribute of my time at USF. Every September I now make a video for National Voter Registration Day where I encourage my friends, peers, and family as a yearly reminder to ensure their voter registration is correct and current. Around campus, you’ll find me wearing the “VOTE” sweatshirt, carrying a San Francisco Department of Elections “Be a Voter” tote bag, or even sporting a “Are you Registered? VOTE” sticker on my reusable water bottle. It’s no secret that I live and breathe the principle of creating a just society through civic engagement.
One thing became clear during this journey: USFVotes was just my first step into civic engagement.
During the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I had my first college internship working for the California Department of Education under State Superintendent Tony Thurmond’s Special Projects Team headed by Chief Deputy Superintendent Mary Nicely while in the McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento program. I soon learned that Sacramento would be a drastic change from the rainy November day in 2020.
Alongside my peers in the McCarthy Fellows cohort, we explored downtown Sacramento from Midtown to Old Town learning the lettered streets and the names of Assemblymembers and State Senators alike. This immersive program allowed me to work on projects like the Safe Schools Bathrooms Ad Hoc Committee which works on creating gender-inclusive bathrooms in K-12 California public schools. I also worked on the implementation of the 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline Number for teachers and administrators to utilize as a tool in their schools.
I was far from my home in Southern California and even San Francisco where I began to establish a community. I knew that creating a just world and actively working against the systems that bring harm to my communities meant passionately doing movement work at the state level. Moreover, I wanted to explore tangentially the impact I could have in local politics by civically engaging the greater San Francisco community.
At the beginning of my junior year, it all became local. I brought my experience in Sacramento back to San Francisco.
This brings me to the current community and home that I’ve been able to build through the Community Empowerment Activists (CEA) program. I have been able to develop my networking and communication skills while also learning what being civically engaged would look and feel like post-graduation.
In CEA, my partner organization was Kapwa Gardens, a SoMa-based non-profit economic development & arts organization that provides space and opportunities for the arts to flourish so that commercial activities are activated and reflect the community at large. Being in the heart of the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District in San Francisco, Kapwa Gardens has become a place where I feel truly connected. As a queer Filipinx student, being at Kapwa Gardens felt like a place where I could confidently call people tita, tito, kuya, and ate. In Tagalog, these translate to uncle, aunt, older brother, and older sister, but in the community, these terms signify our connectedness. The community became my family.
Fusing together the synergies of both government and non-profit work aided me in developing budgetary and communication skills. These organizations have taught me the necessary community-building skills alongside the curriculum we learn in CEA.
Isang Bagsak is a phrase I now live by. It means “one fall.” More importantly, as a proverb, it means: “One fall, we all fall. One rise, we all rise.” This is the power of community.
My journey from Southern California to Sacramento to Kapwa Gardens in San Francisco has prepared me to tackle our future’s greatest challenges. Climate change, educational equity, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like are all issue areas that I won’t stop organizing to dismantle when I leave USF or the McCarthy Center. I have the tools and willpower to create a just world. This is just my second step forward.
Read more about our McCarthy Center programs here!