I was asked to write a response answering the following question:
When you realized you wanted to get involved and help your community, what did you do first?
By no means was integrating my professional work and getting involved with helping the community as clear a decision as maybe other folks have made, especially since my family is extremely entrepreneurial. I remember the clearest moment of this conversation was when I was getting ready to graduate from architecture school. I realized that through an architecture degree I could, if I wanted to, work hard to get into any number of architecture firms, which have really become global. For my architecture capstone project I launched into designing a more poetic and sensible pedestrian bridge for those visitors that walk across the U.S.-Mexico border (as opposed to using existing 5 foot sidewalks adjacent to 25 smog filled vehicular lanes) over the Rio Grande and that made an impact on me. That’s when I realized that we have not given prominence to our border and therefore our border communities. So, I remember deciding that I really wanted to work in bringing good design and good projects to border communities where I felt there was a void to fill and where I would use my knowledge and understanding of place for the benefit of projects and therefore, border communities. I also felt that I could use my values of hard work and entrepreneurship in community building.
I was lucky in that I was working through architecture school with an architecture firm in Tucson that had built a niche in community master planning and affordable housing development. This experience was the key to realizing how important land use and urban planning is to the development of architecture. While I was well on my way towards community development work, I made the decision and got the opportunity to apply for and work for three years through a Frederick P. Rose Architecture Fellowship. This placement of recent graduates of architecture into community and housing development organizations allowed me to come to San Ysidro and work on these important border issues. However, the most important decision I’ve made is to continue the work after the fellowship, see the work through and allow for some stability and continuum in the long developing work of building community which was already started by my fellowship host organization, Casa Familiar.