Daniel was first introduced to the Latino Men & Boys (LMB) program in 2019 as a 7th grader at United for Success Academy. His friends, participants of the program shared they enjoyed the interactive activities, events, and the Latino mentors who led the program. “Most of my teachers were white so I liked that the mentors looked like me,” Daniel said.
Once he joined the program in Fall 2019, Daniel was grateful for the support he received from his mentor, Gerardo Martinez. Daniel said Martinez, or “Mr. G” as he called him genuinely cared about the education and wellbeing of his students. “Mr. G also helped me out a lot with my math,” Daniel said. “He would go into my math class just to help me complete my work and get a better grade.”
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, his world shifted completely. He was no longer able to attend class in person and the breadwinner in his family, his father, suddenly lost his job. “My mom was scared and dad’s job told him to not go to work for like 3 months,” Daniel said. “It was a very scary time.” Shortly after, everyone in his home except Daniel tested positive for COVID-19. Martinez helped Daniel adjust to distance learning and connected his family to direct relief provided by The Unity Council. Through the organization, his family received cash assistance as well as bagged groceries each week from its food distributions. Since then, Daniel’s family has referred others to the food distribution because of the difference it has made to keep their family fed.
Fortunately, Daniel’s family recovered from the coronavirus and he was thankful Martinez guided him through a difficult time. In May 2020, Daniel graduated from middle school in excellent standing and with the confidence to start high school at Oakland Charter Academy. In the summer of 2020, Daniel continued his journey with The Unity Council through the Summer Summit program, a paid career exploration cohort for Oakland youth. Though Daniel is no longer an LMB student, Daniel said Martinez is still making a positive impact in his life. “I feel like I have someone to talk to, he always texts back, and helps me with my school work, even though he’s not my teacher anymore,” Daniel said. Daniel encourages other students to participate in LMB if given the opportunity. From the program, he learned about his community, Aztec history, systemic racism, and the process to apply and go to college.
“Mr. G has told me stories about college and it makes me feel like I want to go,” Daniel said. The freshman dreams of working in a lab someday and he hopes in the summer to start an internship to get the experience.
A pseudonym was added to protect the youth’s identity