A major highlight this semester was being able to interview Dr. Jerry Valadez from the SAM Academy in Sanger, California. This assignment meant a lot to me because I was able to meet a community leader who has made a huge difference in the community I was born and raised in. There is no other program in Sanger like this in which they inspire the youth in math, science, art, music, mentoring, STEM and hands-on skill building. In the semester we learned that a CBO can be self-sustainable, but it needs to operate effectively in all aspects and accept what is not working to implement change. Dr. Valadez, the staff, volunteers and SAM Academy are a great example of a CBO who offers to the community and youth an opportunity to learn and believe in their dreams.
The level of success is based on the youth who have benefited from the organization and have proceeded to complete their education not only in high school but also higher education as Jacqueline Martinez who was a student herself at SAM Academy. She continues to help and even after graduating from college she continues to volunteer at SAM Academy. Dr. Valadez did not see himself as a philanthropist. He thought a philanthropist was a person who had a lot of money to give. But he realized that giving is not just in money. It was also on what he has given to the hundreds of students and people that he has influenced at one point by educating them, taking the time to speak to them and just believing in them.
He has also paved the way for many students such as Ms. Martinez to believe that they can follow in his footsteps. Ms. Martinez indicated that SAM Academy is an organization that cares, and they are a family. She was very grateful for them being in her life, so that is another reason she makes sure she continues to be involved. Dr. Valadez has motivated the future generations and set a legacy for them to follow and continue his work. His advice to future philanthropist is get involved, share your voice, attend city council meetings, become a “Maker”, every day learn new norms, keep the idea of you no matter who tells you different and do remarkable things.
Mrs. Valadez also helps out with the music department, which is dedicated in honor of their son. Ayden Lusk a second grader was able to take drum lessons at SAM Academy and participant in his first recital. He loves playing the drums. SAM Academy gave him the opportunity to stay in town and not have to travel out of Sanger to get lessons. It made a huge difference for him as well other students.