I was a sophomore in high school when I met Johnny Rodriguez. He wasn’t a teacher, a cop, or a counselor. He was a guy that looked like the people in my neighborhood. We spoke the same language, but he had something different to say. He also cared about what I had to say. For some reason, he believed I was much more than what I believed. There’s something special that happens inside of you when you meet someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Change happens.
What was different about Johnny is that he believed in all of us, no matter what we looked like, what we had done, or what we had been through. As a young Latino from a rough neighborhood, I felt good about not being judged. I felt confident. I felt empowered!
Johnny stood by me and my friends through thick and thin, and he did the same for many others. He dedicated himself to helping us all believe in ourselves. ODAT is the manifestation of what Johnny did for us back then and what we all strive to do today.
One Day at a Time (ODAT) means different things to different people. But the essence is the same. We create familia. Some have said,
- “ODAT is a place where you can share who you are, what you are, and not be judged.”
- “ODAT creates a sense of belonging. A family where all differences are accepted and admired.”
- “ODAT saved my life.”
If you asked me, I’d say ODAT creates a family culture and a belief that your son, daughter, grandchild, or nephew can reach their greatest potential if they have the support and opportunities they deserve.
Today, I am grateful to come back to serve in Brentwood as the Development & Business Manager for ODAT, an organization that was created by my mentor. Johnny, who is still my mentor and our Executive Director, taught me that, “You can’t change people. You can only give them opportunities to see life in a different way. Change won’t come overnight; it happens One Day At a Time.”
One Day At a Time or ODAT was founded in 1997 and is a Latino-based organization dedicated to providing positive educational and personal growth opportunities to young adults in East Contra Costa County and San Joaquin County. ODAT youth build better relationships with other peers, improve relationships at home and also perform better academically. We achieve this by providing a supportive network of peers and adults, promoting positive lifestyles, enhancing educational learning experiences, and developing decision-making skills that empower young leaders to realize their full potential.
By Ramiro Ibarra, Development and Business Manager at ODAT