Written by Rafael Gonzales
I have a unique position as both a Many Mansions staff member and resident. I moved here about 7 or 8 years ago with my family when I was in 7th grade. Before I moved to Many Mansions, I was going back and forth from city to city with my family. It was a bit hard, but it made me the person I am today. Seeing what my mom went through, I knew I wanted to do something more, and ultimately help her in the future.
When we first moved here, my two younger siblings and I ended up participating in many of the programs put on by Children Services. Participating in these activities really got me out of my comfort zone and socializing with residents my age. It was a good outlet for me. Children Services also helped me academically. The staff was really great about making me feel welcome, and helping me push through things that I didn’t think I could accomplish. Children Services not only provides academic support in the form of tutoring, but also provides resident students with the supplies they need to complete their school work.
I remember in 5th grade, while living at a shelter, I had to do a craft for the California Missions. I can’t remember if I had the supplies, or if my other classmates brought them, but you really couldn’t do anything at the shelter. Fifth graders at Many Mansions don’t have to go through the same experience. Resident students at Many Mansions are fortunate enough to have access to backpacks and school supplies as well as art supplies for projects like these. Without these resources, it would be difficult for them to do simple tasks at school.
After I graduated high school, and had completed my first year of college, I was offered a position in Children Services. I worked at summer camp the first year which was really great. I enjoy working with kids. Now, I work with chronically homeless families. It’s nice to hear the kids’ comments about us and how much they enjoy the programs that we put on. It’s really a great outlet for them to go somewhere where they can both have fun and learn. I’ve been in their shoes before. It’s rewarding to now be on the other side and able to be the one helping them.
If I am able to reach my goal of becoming a firefighter, I plan to return to Many Mansions to share what I have learned with the children. I would love to bring the entire fire squad to all of the sites and put on an event in which they get to go inside the fire truck and learn more about what firefighters do. In becoming a firefighter, I want to not only protect my broader community, but also further educate them through what I have to offer as a firefighter. If it weren’t for these programs at Many Mansions, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.