By Kristen Forbes
Occupation(s): AULA Education Department work study employee, public school student teacher, karate instructor
AULA Affiliation: BA ’13, Multiple Subject Teacher Credential ’13, AULA Opportunities Grant recipient
What are your jobs?
I just started as a student teacher at El Rodeo School in Beverly Hills. I have been observing in the classroom this past quarter and am extremely excited to begin student teaching. The students are so amazing. If a child gives you a hug, you must have done something right. In the Antioch University Los Angeles Education Department, I perform many different jobs. I take care of normal office work such as copying, scanning files, filing paperwork, etc. But I also do many other jobs, from managing the children’s library to attending the faculty and advisory board meetings for the Department.
Describe the main project or task you did today.
Today I was working on getting things ready for the 2013 Horace Mann Upstanders Award and Literature Conference. I emailed the authors and their publishers about the schedule for the day of the conference and asked a few of them specific questions about their favorite books. After being in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and helping people in their communities, it is so amazing to be working on a children’s literature conference that focuses on Upstanders (those who recognize injustices and act in ways to right the wrongs). Social justice is what Antioch University is about; being able to help put together an event that encourages children to stand up for what they believe in, through literature, is really amazing and important to me.
What’s your favorite thing about AULA?
Easy: the people. Everybody at Antioch University is committed to helping each other and the community. The people here are amazing. When I have a question, there is always someone there to help me out. I have never seen such caring people at any other school.
Tell us about the Antioch Opportunity Grant you received.
As a BA student, I received an Antioch Opportunity Grant, which is based on financial need, academic excellence, and service to community. Growing up, I was taught the value of community service by teaching karate to underprivileged children. When I was at the University of Arizona, I created a free women’s self defense program because of the troubling rape statistics. After I left Arizona, I felt stuck trying to find the right school for my education. In that time I heard of a program called AmeriCorps. I immediately joined and spent ten months living in small communities across the southwest. The feeling of working with people dedicated to making the world a better place is not easily forgotten.
What makes you tick?
I guess I am kind of old-fashioned. I believe in honor and morals and I really try to do the best job I can at whatever I am working on. It all started because I was born with a severe speech impediment, which took many years of rigorous speech therapy and perseverance to overcome. This is why I volunteered to be part of the Student Disciplinary Committee at AULA. After two decades studying karate, the masters say my skills are great – but my heart is what makes me stand out.
What do you wish people knew about you?
I wish people knew about my AmeriCorps experience. I received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for performing additional community service during the program.
How did you decide on AULA for school?
The mother of one of my childhood friends is a former professor at Antioch University, and she told me about it just before I left for AmeriCorps. During AmeriCorps, I planned to come out to Los Angeles for a weekend and was able to schedule a meeting with Admissions.
Did you catch yourself having any daydreams today?
No, karate has taught me to stay focused.
Students were invited to submit their artwork reflecting the theme “renewal”. Here are some highlights.
Books by AULA Authors
By Wendy Fontaine
Yuvi Zalkow, MFA ’10
“A Brilliant Novel in the Works”
MP Publishing, 2012
A funny, shame-filled and heartbreaking debut novel about a man failing to write a funny, shame-filled and heartbreaking debut novel.
John Paulett, MFA ’13 with Judy Floodstrand
Anova Books Group, 2012
Some of Chicago’s greatest architectural losses are represented in this photographic tribute to a bygone city of Chicago. This collection traces a nostalgic path from the time it was known both as the Windy City and Porkopolis, and presents an astonishing range of vanished Chicago.
Hope Edelman, associate faculty, MFA with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez
“Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son”
Free Press, 2012
In this dual memoir, film legend martin Sheen and actor-filmmaker Emilio Estevez recount their lives as father and son.
Andromeda Romano-Lax, MFA ’12
Soho Press, 2013
When art curator Ernst Vogler is sent to Rome in 1938 by his employer, the Third
Reich’s Sonderprojekte, to collect a famous statue to add to the Führer’s collection, he has no idea the three-day trip will change his life.
Cheryl Strayed, associate faculty, MFA ’09
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”
In the wake of her mother’s death and her own divorce, Cheryl Strayed made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.
Fleur Philips, MFA ’12
“I Am Lucky Bird”
New Dawn Publishers Ltd, 2012
Twelve-year-old Lucky Bird’s childhood comes to an abrupt end after her mother mysteriously vanishes and she is left alone with her suddenly abusive grandmother and the twisted predatory game played out by her grandmother’s lover.
Nancy Fawcett is a popular instructor in the MA in Clinical Psychology program, from which she graduated in 1986. She is also a psychotherapist with a successful private practice, an integral member of the Alumni Council, and one of AULA’s most consistent and generous donors.
Here, she talks about her AULA experience, and what inspires her to give.
Education as Revelation
The course material in the Psychology program made the pieces of my life come together and make sense; it was transformative to understand myself in new ways. I also came to see that humor could be a part of the serious subject of psychology. This was capped off at the “mock graduation” where there was a delightful talent show, and where one of the smartest, most impactful instructors, Dr. Mike Gold, showed up in a tutu. This helped me see that I too could take risks, be myself, and do important, meaningful work at the same time.
Paying it Forward
I believe in showing up for the people and things I care about. What has inspired me to give is the deep sense of gratitude I have to AULA for a career I love, for providing me the opportunity to teach in the graduate Psychology program, and for the wonderful people AULA has brought into my life. Teaching puts me in touch with the diverse and thoughtful students who attend AULA. I love being challenged by them; they keep me on my toes professionally and inspire me to continue to learn and grow in my field.
A Special Student
A remarkable woman was in my Group class a few years ago. At first, she seemed a bit quiet; it wasn’t until I read her elegantly written, deeply insightful papers and watched her engage in a risky, revealing role-play, did I see what a treasure she was. We’ve stayed in touch and it’s been good to know how she has gone on to use her degree. Recently, she let me know that she has been accepted into Claremont College’s PhD program in Theology and Psychology. What a thrill to see that this very bright light, whom I have the joy of knowing through AULA, will shine in a way she so deserves.
Alumni can make the most impact by becoming active members of the Alumni Association, enjoying the benefits of its activities, and having the opportunity to connect with fellow alumni. They can also support programs and scholarships to continue AULA’s mission of recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, as well as providing the unique education and community that is AULA. A dream come true for me personally would be to see us have a campus of our own.
The action takes place in Hollywood, Canada, Sweden, Spain, and
countless other international settings.
There is no intermission.
Hollywood. Young Dale Seligman is the all-singing, all-dancing daughter of a homemaker and a film/television producer. She performs with the Royal Ballet at the Shrine Auditorium, but ultimately sets her sights on singing. Dale is granted a full scholarship to study voice at Immaculate Heart High School, then transfers after a year to the progressive Oakwood High School in the valley. There she pens a full-length tragic opera, dutifully killing off all the characters by the final curtain.
Dale spends a year studying voice with famed American soprano Marni Nixon at CalArts. At 19, Dale sets off for Canada with her betrothed, where she thrills audiences with her performances in musicals and operettas, attending college on and off.
Eight years pass. Dale returns to Los Angeles, studies opera at USC, and launches her professional opera career. She performs in major opera houses throughout the world and spends eight years with the Los Angeles Opera. (Some favorite roles include Yum-Yum in “The Mikado,” with Dudley Moore, and Alexandra in “Regina.”) Dale is quick to volunteer to sing in arts education concerts for children and at senior centers, a commitment to outreach that will prove prescient in Act VII.
In 1983, Dale marries attorney Don Franzen, with whom she will raise two daughters and her son from a previous marriage. The role of wife and mother proves more gratifying than any role she’s played on stage, as she skillfully balances a loving family and a fulfilling singing career that will span over two decades.
Dale is now in her early 30s and pregnant with her second child when she is asked to teach a voice class at Santa Monica College (SMC). Dale’s passion for teaching is ignited, and she creates an opera workshop for the school. After her daughter is born, Dale begins to perform professionally again and must bid adieu to SMC. Little does she know that her collaboration with the school is only just beginning.
Around the same time she begins teaching, Dale enrolls at Antioch University Los Angeles to finish her bachelor’s degree. She is delighted to explore interests beyond classical music through the school’s broad liberal arts curriculum. Child development instructor Stephanie Solomon becomes a lifelong mentor and friend, and Dale’s young daughter is the subject of many a home-grown Piaget experiment. Dale graduates from AULA with her BA in Liberal Studies in 1985.
Piedad Robertson, then president of SMC, asks Dale to develop a new program at the school. With a partner, Dale creates the Academy for Entertainment and Technology, which opens in 1997. Dale is asked to serve as the Academy’s dean but declines, hungry for an even bigger challenge.
Dale’s wish comes true when President Robertson asks her to transform an off -campus auditorium into a world-class performing arts center. Dale and actor Dustin Hoff man (a former SMC student) toil for years, planning and fundraising. Finally, the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center opens in 2008 with Dale as director and Hoffman as artistic chair.
Dale discovers that she has inherited her father’s gift for producing, primed by his tales from the Hollywood trenches. The Broad Stage’s critically acclaimed, often international programming – including live theater, dance, opera, symphonies, and more – delights both traditional and nontraditional theater-goers alike.
Forever grateful for the impact of the arts on her own life, Dale takes special pride in the free and low-cost programs the Broad Stage offers to school groups. The all-singing, all-dancing student has become a powerful theatrical master, bringing the joy of live performance to appreciative audiences.
Note: Act VII remains a work in progress.
As for Act VIII, only time will tell.
“I started off as a classical musician; I never dreamed that I would end up doing what I’m doing now. If you had said to me when I was 20, ‘You’re going to build a theater and run it,’ I’d have said, ‘You’re nuts. How on earth would I do that?’ But that’s what happened. Life is long. If you stay healthy, you could live to 100 and you may end up having four careers. So the skills that you learn along the way are everything. My father was a producer. I never dreamed that those conversations I heard when I was seven, eight, nine years old would come back to haunt me in my job right now – in a good way. As you enter a career, be open to the many different paths and skills that you might use someday. I think having some diversity in what you do is very important now. A lot of people are much narrower. They go, ‘I’m going to be a singer, and that’s all I’m going to be,’ but I had other skills that I was open to exploring. I think the world is moving more and more toward hybrid careers, so accept the idea that you probably won’t stay in the same career for your whole life – that’s highly unlikely.”
By Kristen Forbes
As the weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, you may think you’ve missed your chance to get into the spring cleaning spirit. But as the tips below illustrate, there’s no bad time to start taking care of yourself and getting organized. It may seem counterintuitive, but investing time in the things that bring us joy can help streamline our lives. Here are five (inexpensive and often free) ideas to help you declutter your mind, find balance, and offer the world the best possible version of you.
Learn to Care for Yourself
Kristen Maus is a registered art therapist and certified professional coach in Portland, Oregon. She works with clients to help them realize the value of self-care, an act that’s all too easy to neglect when life gets hectic. “As a life coach whose practice focuses on helping people look at all aspects of their lives in order to restore balance, I believe self-care should not be the trump card, thrown in as a last resort in the hopes of righting the capsized boat,” says Maus. “No, self-care is the daily use card that prevents the boat from capsizing in the first place. This card can help you practice saying kindly but firmly, ‘no, thank you’ to those life invitations which deplete you, and ‘yes, please’ to those which inspire you and allow your best self to sparkle. Decluttering the ‘shoulds’ on the social calendar allows more time for the pursuits that feed you. And if you’re nurtured, you can feed the other relationships you value in life. The boat stays upright.”
Before Andrew Todhunter graduated from AULA’s MFA program in 2011, he taught writers
about meditation for his senior lecture. “It works. It’s a tremendous tool,” says Todhunter. “It reduces internal turmoil. Whether you’re a writer or an athlete or a cop or a parent or in a relationship – and the hardest relationship you’ll ever live is with yourself – meditation serves everything. It deepens compassion and gratitude. If you reduce the noise and chatter and spend time in the stillness, if you can relax in that and be more present in that, all of these things that serve us deepen.”
Join a Sports League
Owen Turnbull of Portland, Oregon, is a member of not one but four recreational soccer teams, two of which he manages. “I participate in soccer instead of joining a gym because the workout schedule is set for me,” he says. “The games are scheduled ahead of time and I am committed to going to them and planning the rest of my life around them. That way I cannot put off working out and staying in shape. It also forces me to get away from work and the stresses of everyday life on a regular basis. If I had a gym membership, those stresses would be used as an excuse not to go because I think I am too busy.”
Rethink Your Clothes
AULA Urban Sustainability student E.dali Pollard purchases the majority of her clothes (and many of her housewares and furniture) from thrift stores. “When you change your perception about thrifting,” she says, “things in front of you look different.” Not only does she seek out exquisite and unique items that reflect her own style, she also wears her social justice activist hat (and sleeves, and shoes) at all times. “When an item that has been around for a long time is still here, that is a testament to the workmanship and labor that went into it,” Pollard says.
Jason Adams of Boston says the time he spent in his twenties volunteering as a Big Brother and a Playtime Activity Leader (PAL) for Horizons for the Homeless enriched his life. “I really enjoyed this time,” he reflects, “because I felt like I could just let go of all my ‘real world’ issues and just be a kid. I also had a sense of pride that I was doing my part to help society and to improve the lives of others, and that certainly energized me as well.”
Tips from staff and faculty to rejuvenate your life.
Christopher Freeman (director of Financial Aid) annually donates clothes he no longer wears to out of the closet or Goodwill. He organizes his books, music and movies, gets rids of items and gifts he doesn’t use, checks the dates on his canned and boxed foods, and finally dusts and vacuums. “I try not to hold onto items just because someone I care about gave them to me,” he says. “If I’m not enjoying/using/interacting with it, it goes into the Goodwill bin.”
Gilda Haas (core faculty, MA in Urban Sustainability) stays centered through three guiding activities: a morning writing practice, long bike rides, and mindful meditation.
Charley Lang (associate faculty, BA) is inspired by the great outdoors. “Nature and the earth de-stress me,” he says. “I spend a lot of time in the garden – especially this time of year – getting dirty, communing with the trees and flowers as they bud. I just planted my first Sequoia. Nature has an amazing sense of renewal.”
Martha Longley (executive assistant to the president) practices transcendental meditation. “It is something that can be done upon waking in the morning, during a quiet moment at work or in the early evening upon coming home from work,” she says. “It just has to be prioritized and scheduled into one’s day.”
Josh Williams (director of Student Affairs) has six ideas for decluttering:
1) Pursue an old hobby.
2) Sign up for a local class through your city. “City classes are inexpensive, not a large time commitment and a great way to meet new people.”
3) Minimize social traffic by temporarily deactivating social media. “Sometimes less is truly more.”
4) Cook yourself and a guest a nice meal.
5) Stop multitasking. “If you’re always focused on accomplishing multiple tasks, you’re not going to be able to focus on yourself.”
6) Find time to be silent. “Normally, the quietest part of our day is bedtime, but it doesn’t have to be. When commuting, turn your radio and phone off and enjoy the silence.”
By Kristen Forbes
Gone are the days when simply going to school and earning a degree was enough. Whether it’s mastering social media, honing in on lessons specific to our fields, or just accepting the idea that learning is a lifelong process, we now live in an era that requires us to continually sharpen our skills.
Susan Nero, PhD, chair of the graduate management programs at AULA, thinks the idea of skill renewal is a given in today’s society. She says the question we shouldn’t be asking is why the practice is valuable, but how to sharpen our skills in a meaningful way. “I don’t think people have a choice about this,” she says. “We no longer live in a culture that’s based on traditions. We live in a culture where change – rather than stability – is what people have to adapt to. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we’re always being forced to learn new things, even if it’s something like how to open a new Twitter account.”
James Ducat, a 2012 graduate of AULA’s MFA program, works as a high school teacher in Redlands, California. He’s gone above and beyond the required trainings his school site provides to pursue additional educational opportunities, often at his own expense – including earning two master’s degrees. Ducat says he considers the network he acquired from his graduate schools “to be an ad hoc continuing education workshop.”
As Ducat explains it, the main roles of a teacher are preparing students for what comes next (whether that’s continuing education or work), and encouraging “thoughtful civic participation.” When Ducat learns new skills, he engages in the same critical thinking his students experience. Particularly when learning more difficult skills (like technology and pedagogical strategies), he can then present his knowledge to students in a direct, meaningful way. This benefits him, as well. “When I engage with the world in new ways about new subjects,” he says, “I rejuvenate my practice, which can otherwise become stale and repetitive.”
Rejuvenation is important for a number of reasons, from preventing burnout to increasing productivity. Sharpening our skills can seem boring if we’re merely following a path of requirements. These days, most fields require skill renewal, and many companies encourage and facilitate continued learning.
For Brendan Hutchins, owner of Rockstar Remodel and journeyman electrician in Portland, Oregon, it’s often the unrequired courses that provide the greatest satisfaction. “The required classes often just focus on the licenses and not actual practices. It’s the optional classes that really help me. Perhaps people cannot be forced to learn. There needs to be passion or some other drive.”
Susan Nero encourages thinking beyond perimeters when it comes to continued learning. Being less reactive and more proactive fosters learning that’s both beneficial and fun. As she points out, “We have a lot of ways to learn now. People do this by sitting at their computers for hours every day and reading journals they never would have looked at in the library and going to specialized websites and blogs. A lot of people have become a lot more autodidactic because of the new technology.”
Technology has allowed for new and more accessible modes of education. Learning doesn’t always come in the form of a big, expensive, off-site conference or workshop. Learning can be a daily process, like spending time on the computers we’re often using anyway. And while we’re there, we may want to learn more about new technologies and social media. Regardless of the field, these are becoming more universally essential skills.
“Social media is exploding,” says Robert Stapp, director of Human Resources at Antioch University. “It changes every day.” Stapp notes the differences between the last five or so years, citing a time when those in his field were encouraged to not even look at social media. Now the opposite is true. Stapp knows of recruiters who say candidates without social media accounts won’t even be considered by some companies.
Gaining news skills can be important even in traditionally solitary, low-tech fields. For this writer, my writing stalled for a year after earning my MFA. I assumed that my master’s degree marked some sort of, well, mastery. I didn’t need another writing group. I didn’t need to figure out this whole Twitter/Tumblr/WordPress/LinkedIn thing. I didn’t need to sign myself up for readings, or seek out people to talk to about the books I read, or find a workshop to help me figure out why my latest manuscript wasn’t working.
In reality, I needed all these things. After embracing the idea of continued learning and skill renewal, seeking advice from more established writers helped me revive dead projects. Participating in public readings forced me to keep my material fresh. Learning how the heck to use Twitter – an ongoing process for someone as technologically inept as me – exposed me to a broader network of people and ideas. Taking the time to sharpen my skills improved my writing, and it can improve any craft in any field.
As long as the passion is there, there’s nothing dull about that. –KF
How do we change? It’s a question that’s intrigued Ted Knoll since he began working in the field of addiction and recovery 20 years ago. Then in 1999, he was asked by members of his church in Whittier, California, to help develop a year-round homeless shelter. At the time he worked for SRO Housing, a homeless agency in Downtown Los Angeles, but had no interest in replicating Skid Row’s revolving door shelter system. He wanted to put homeless people on a path to security and self-reliance. He wanted to help them change.
The result is the Whittier Area First Day Coalition (often referred to as Whittier’s First Day), where Knoll has been executive director since 2001. He’s implemented an audacious plan based on the notion that personal growth can come from serving a greater good. Knoll first conceived of his “reciprocal community engagement” philosophy while a student in AULA’s MA in Organizational Management program. First Day can shelter up to 45 residents, as they are known, who receive healthcare and career and housing assistance for six months. In return, they are asked to volunteer throughout the city as part of a task force called First Day Angels, taking part in civic life and being of service to the community.
“When someone is homeless, they really need to go through an arc of personal change,” Knoll notes. “We create a safe environment for them to do that work. Through volunteering, the residents learn how to reintegrate into the community and realize their own intrinsic value. It becomes very empowering.”
First Day also facilitates treatment for the 50-60% of residents who struggle with substance abuse. Certified as a chemical dependency specialist, Knoll knows all too well the devastating effects of addiction. He can tell you about the alcoholic tabloid photographer who wound up living in a dumpster. Or the cocktail waitress, faced with losing custody of her child, who drank herself to death. Or the young man, hiding a painful secret, who habitually drove drunk until a judge mandated that he attend Alcoholics Anonymous. How the man stood up in front of a group of strangers and told them the one thing about himself they already knew.
“I’m Ted,” he said. “And I’m an alcoholic.”
Ted (short for Thaddeus) Knoll was born in 1945 and raised in Nanticoke, PA, a tight-knit, conservative town with a large immigrant population. By the time he was in high school, Knoll knew he was different. “When I found out I was gay as a teenager, I only knew one person in the world who was gay,” he notes wryly, “and that was me.”
Depressed and isolated, Knoll found refuge in theater, performing in high school plays and a teens-only theater group he organized himself. As a freshman at Mansfield State College, still closeted and alone, Knoll began to drink. Heavily. “When I drank, I drank into oblivion,” Knoll says. “I’ve never been a daily drinker – I’m what’s called a binge drinker. What I know now, looking back, is that repressing my identity as a gay male had a lot to do with the internal pressures that would come out in addictive behavior.”
After college, Knoll moved to Los Angeles with Mary, a woman fifteen years his senior, the mother of three children and a former dancer on Broadway. It was the early 70s, and Knoll had convinced himself that he was bisexual. He worked in the hospitality industry and continued to binge drink, until the 1972 drunk driving arrest that led to his court-mandated stint in Alcoholics Anonymous. He remained clean for ten years, until the pain of hiding his homosexuality became too much to bear. Knoll officially came out, fell into a deep depression, and relapsed for six months. He and Mary stayed together through it all, and even got married – in a gay bar.
Then in 1985, Knoll was at a friend’s birthday party when a man named Richard Cisneros sat down next to him. Their connection was instant.
“I kind of knew it when he sat down and we started talking,” Knoll recalls. “That was it. We had a date, we went out for dinner, and we’ve been together for 27 years.”
Now sober and happily partnered (and amicably divorced), Knoll went back to school for addiction studies, eventually working as a technician in a detox center. A natural leader with a keen eye for strategy (he ran for the California state assembly in 1984, as one of the first openly gay Log Cabin Republicans), Knoll enrolled in AULA’s Organizational Management program. It was there that he gained an understanding of how institutions make difficult transitions.
“AULA gave me the group level of the change process,” he explains. “It also gave me a tool set so that when I had the opportunity to do something completely out of the box, I was confident that I could do it.” When Knoll began developing a year-round homeless shelter, the Whittier police department, hospital, and community members were all against it, fearing crime and vagrancy. But Knoll persisted, armed with the leadership skills he’d gained at AULA, and inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12th step, which calls for helping others in need. Once residents began volunteering in the community, the perception of the homeless in Whittier began to change.
As did the reality. According to a 2010 evaluation by the Center for Nonprofit Management, First Day has helped 45 percent of its residents find employment, and, on average, raised their monthly income by 180 percent. Because First Day helps residents reconnect with family and find affordable housing, less than ten percent of those who leave the program return directly to the streets.
Many of First Day’s ten paid, full-time employees – including the office manager, prevention case manager/ housing manager, and certified medical assistant – started out as residents. (“The inmates really do run the asylum here!” Knoll says proudly.)
Patrick Bouchard, 66, came to First Day after living on the streets for four years when his landscaping business went under. He’s now its director of outreach, fielding calls from local business and community members requesting the assistance of residents, who have done everything from picking apples for elderly neighbors to prepping advertising packets for the Chamber of Commerce.
As a result of residents’ local involvement, the homeless in Whittier are now perceived not as “others,” but as valued members of the community. First Day even has a float in the Whittier Holiday Parade.
“You’re working side by side and the homelessness isn’t even thought of,” says Bouchard. “The residents get recognized in the community as people who are out there working to help. That counts for something when you go to look for a job. ‘Hey, I know you! I saw you working out there at the car show.’”
“There’s a stereotype of the guy pushing his shopping cart with his 40 oz. and his blankets,” Bouchard adds. “Your next-door neighbor could lose a paycheck and be homeless within a month.”
Leon Stinson, 57, is a handyman and landscaper who became homeless in 2009 after the economy collapsed. But he takes responsibility for some of the circumstances that led to his homelessness. “It wasn’t all about the government, not being able to find employment,” he concedes. “It was also problems I had within myself. When everything kind of fell under as far as me being able to maintain the rent, pay my bills and stuff like that, I went straight to drugs.”
Ten months ago, Stinson was eating at an In-N-Out Burger when he saw a homeless veteran asking for help filling out paperwork. Stinson brought the man to the veteran advocacy group Vet Hunters, which referred Stinson to First Day. Once there, Stinson found himself surrounded by a support network he’d never known before. He says he hasn’t touched a drug since. After his six-month stay at First Day ended, he was made a “team member,” receiving extended housing in exchange for doing repair work and mentoring new residents.
“First Day is like the family I never had,” says Stinson, who still bears the physical and emotional scars of an abusive childhood. “It makes me feel good to feel like I’m wanted, or even needed, maybe. I was blessed with a lot of skills and talents, and evidently it’s helping them.”
Stinson, who wears a pacemaker and receives Social Security, has just qualified for Section 8 housing assistance, and looks forward to living on his own. A year from now, he sees himself creating an “annex” of First Day, so that he can pay forward all the gifts he’s received.
“First Day has let me stay here, clothed me, fed me, given me medical care,” he says. “Anything that goes wrong with me, First Day has my back. So a year from now, I’m hoping and praying that I’ll be able to help somebody else.”
Over the past 12 years at First Day, Knoll has witnessed countless such personal transformations. He credits the Organizational Management program for helping him discover the power of community involvement to change people’s lives.
“When I had to explore my own personal ethics in one of the classes, something profound hit me,” he explains. “I realized that one of the natural conflicts in the world is the struggle between the individual and the group: the ‘I’ and the ‘we’. The purpose of the group is to help the individual, and the purpose of the individual is to help the group. And when this synergy exists, something greater than either one happens.”