Paola Avendano

My name is Paola Avendano and I am a 25 years old latina from San Bernardino, CA. Although I am not currently enrolled as a student, I graduated in 2016 with a major in Political Science from UCR and am currently working on studying for the GRE in order to go back to school soon. I plan to apply for programs that focus on public policy, public administration, and even business administration. 
I was born in LA and my parents separated when I turned 6. Like many families with a similar experience, it became expensive living there and my mother decided to move to San Bernardino. Additionally, my uncles were gradually immigrating from Honduras to the U.S. and suddenly it was 6-8 of us sharing a 2 bedroom apartment. Once they became independent, my mother would work nights and had no other choice but to leave me with the neighbor. Even as a teenager, I was never home and it felt as though that very same freedom led me to make bad choices. I rebelled until I realized that I actually wasn’t bad at school; all I had to do was apply myself. The idea of college didn’t exist until a local non-profit (BLU Educational Foundation) who worked with youth helped me plant that seed in my head. Thankfully, I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from UCR, a place that helped me become independent as I worked several jobs while also learning from my internships and being involved on campus. This particular area of study intrigued me because if you really think about it, politics plays a role in almost every aspect of our lives and when it comes to disadvantaged communities like those in the IE, it’s not always a positive one. As I entered the workforce to work for a non-profit and an elected official right after, I enjoyed the work that I did in providing awareness and resources to several individuals with a similar background such as mine. I’ve learned that a disadvantaged family isn’t always able to play a role in politics (the very thing that can affect them tremendously) until they are able to support themselves, and I feel like I’ve helped close that gap little by little and can continue to do that on a larger scale if I just continue to apply myself. Pursuing my master’s will be another step in the right direction because not only will it help me grow on a personal level, but I will also use that knowledge to contribute to the community that made me who I am today. 
My role for CSI consists of mainly handling external affairs for the Center. Currently I oversee and support a number of Census related efforts, mainly the IE Complete Count Committee with an emphasis on business engagement and social media/website management. I am also responsible in COVID-19 response related items such as our shared website with the IE Community Foundation and weekly webinars with non-profit stakeholders. Furthermore, I partake in event planning of certain projects and support staff in any events they are responsible for as well as manage our Director's calendar. Work on IE Rise will be ramping up soon so I am excited to partake in these upcoming tasks that CSI as a whole hopes will have a major impact in the region.
In retrospect, it has been a humbling experience witnessing how CSI has had a positive impact on a number of efforts in such a short amount of time. The reason why I mention CSI’s growth is because this growth wouldn’t be as powerful if it weren't for the amazing work that community partners do in the region and how they positively influence the mission of CSI. We learn from them constantly and everyday we hope that we add value to their amazing work. 
What’s so inspiring about community partners is that they will continue to do the hard work, in the good times and most importantly in the bad times (like right at this very moment with COVID-19), and sometimes that work and dedication can go unnoticed. That is why CSI wishes to continue to uplift them in whichever way possible.