Finding Community and Taking Action

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By: Alberto Melgoza, Financial Systems Lead at Google, Latinos in Tech Giving Circle member since 2015.

I immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico about 10 years ago after graduating from the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes with a degree in Electronic Engineering. I had gotten a job as a software engineer at the Universal Studios in Los Angeles and I arrived to this country like many do: with one suitcase full of hopes and dreams, and a bag of chicharrones, palanquetas, and tamarindos con chile that my mom insisted on packing for me.

When I got to L.A., I was immediately welcomed by an amazing group of Mexican engineers that made me feel right at home. While this was incredibly fortunate and I will be forever grateful, it also made me believe for a moment that such was the experience for all immigrants everywhere in the U.S. It wasn’t until I moved to Denver, CO, a few years later that my eyes were opened to a very different reality. At the new company I worked for, it became apparent to me that there were too few people working in office cubicles like mine that looked like me, that spoke my language, and that had a similar immigrant experience.

All of a sudden I felt a deep sense of loneliness, but at the same time I felt energized to get involved and try to do something about it. That’s when I started the journey to learn about the wide range of obstacles, barriers, and challenges that Latinos in the U.S. face every day and the amazing stories of resilience and unity that help us overcome them and grow stronger as a community.

This journey took me to the Bay Area where I currently live and have come to call home. I love its beautiful diversity, but the struggles that we face as Latinos here are as real as anywhere else. Even working at Google, a truly amazing company and undoubtedly one of the best places I’ve ever worked for, I can’t sit idle knowing that Latinos make up only 3% of the workforce. That’s why I was so excited when I learned about the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) and the Latinos Giving Circle Network and it makes me tremendously proud to be one of the founding members of the Latinos in Tech Giving Circle. Our monthly sessions are always something I look forward to.

LCF does much more than help us collect and invest our pooled funds into Latino-led nonprofits. They help to create a sense of family, fun and a deep sense of belonging to something that we care about. Most importantly, educate us on the issues that many Latino families and nonprofits face and encourage us to get involved in advocacy.

This year, I volunteered to be a Legislative Captain at the Latino Equity Summit in Sacramento because I firmly believe that sustainable and structural change is only achieved when we come together as a community and we actively participate in the democratic process. I was one of several Latino Giving Circle donors that was invited to lead a group of Summit attendees to our State’s capitol for an Afternoon of Legislative meetings. These Leg visits gave us an invaluable opportunity to have a direct and open dialogue with policymakers about issues that are critical for our Latino community such as Environmental Justice and Higher Education. During the discussions, we shared hard facts, as well as personal stories, perspectives, and first-hand accounts that helped illustrate why it is so important for government officials to take prompt and decisive action to solve such pressing issues.

For me, the Summit was not only a day full of engaging presentations and fun enriching discussions, it was also a day full of special moments that made the experience even more meaningful. Like sitting next to Martin, a teacher from Sacramento, and immediately establishing a bond with him even though we have such different professional backgrounds, or listening to the incredibly inspiring story of Sarahi Espinoza and her DREAMer’s Roadmap, or discussing  tech with Ivan and Justino, two amazing young entrepreneurs from Southern California working on mobile apps for the immigrant community, or meeting House Speaker Anthony Rendon at the State Capitol and feeling empowered, energized and convinced that we can truly make a difference.

Join me and this incredible group of people who are committed to making a lasting impact for the betterment of our Latino community.


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San Francisco Mental Health Board: Board Position Available!

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Did you know that in general, Latinos are less likely to report mental illness?

Too few Latinos seek help for mental illness. Latina magazine released an article in October 2015 that shared among Latinos with a mental disorder, “fewer than one in 11 contact a mental health specialist, and fewer than one in five contact a general health care provider, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Office of Minority and National Affairs“.

Mental health has remained taboo for too long in our community. We need to talk about mental health and we need to start making a difference where we can.

How Can You Make A Difference?

The San Francisco Mental Health Board is currently in the search to fill three open positions:  2 family member seats and 1 public interest seat. All seats are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The City serves a significant number of people from the Latino Community but they currently have no Latino representation on their board or any member who speaks Spanish. This is a great opportunity for people interested in shaping policy and programs to serve the community mental health and substance abuse needs.

You don’t have to have lots of policy experience to be a valuable member. What matters is that you care deeply about making sure that the best possible services get to everyone who needs them. New members get lots of support from veteran members and current staff in addition to meeting a lot of great people.

Mental Health Board Mission:

The Mental Health Board of San Francisco represents and ensures the inclusion of the diverse voices of consumers, citizens, and stakeholders in advising how mental health services and substance abuse services are administered and provided.

Through its State and City mandates, the Mental Health Board advises, reviews, advocates and educates; with the aim of having that advice integrated, incorporated, and reflected in implementation of mental health policy; with the ultimate goal of ensuring quality mental health services.

You Can Help Improve the Mental Health System!

The Mental Health Board of San Francisco is seeking applicants for Family Member and Public Interest seats on the Board. For a Family Member Seat, you must have a close family member with a serious mental illness. For a Public Interest Seat, you must have experience and knowledge of the mental health system representing the public interest. For all seats, you must be a resident of San Francisco, a citizen of the United States, over 18 years old, and you cannot work for Behavioral Health Services or one of its contractors.

Appointments will be made by the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. As a Board member you would:

1. Attend the Board meeting on the third Wednesday evening of each month, from 6:30 to  8:30 p.m., at City Hall, One Carlton Goodlett Place, 2nd Floor, Room 278. Serve on a committee of the Board and attend committee meetings one time a month.

2. Participate in at least one program review each year.

3. Attend the Annual Retreat.

If you are interested in applying to the Board, please call Helynna Brooke or Loy Proffitt at the Mental Health Board office at 415/255-3474. They welcome your questions, and will send an application packet to you.

415-255-3474 or