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Owning the Personal

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

On Wednesday, October 7, at the annual Extension Fall Program Conference in Bloomington, America Bracho, M.D., spoke at our center’s meeting about her work as executive director of Latino Health Access (LHA), a center for health promotion and disease prevention in program in Santa Ana, CA. As Trish Olson, director of programs, wrote in a Family Matters column in July, Participation Makes the Difference, a team of seven Health and Nutrition staff members visited LHA this summer, and we used the program conference as an opportunity to share Dr. Bracho’s message with more FD staff and faculty.

The morning after program conference, I had a pleasant surprise in my email inbox: a collection of the important “sound bites” from Dr. Bracho’s talk compiled by Mary Marczak, director of urban family development and evaluation. I would like to share a few of these sound bites with you, not only because they provide useful information, but because they give you a sense of the passion, dedication, and the creative, collaborative approach Dr. Bracho brings to her work in Santa Ana:

The present (or gift) we ALL deserve is found in community work, and that present (gift) is our ability/opportunity to overcome our prejudices.

When we, as professionals, think we have the solutions to a community’s problems, that's where the problem starts in creating meaningful and productive relationships. Community participants are leaders of their own lives and need to name and drive the solutions. We need to engage them as such.

As professionals, we are people before we are educational degrees. You don't connect with people “with a diploma” connect with others as bring your whole self to the table, not just your professional self. When you work on your personal self, you are working on your professional self. When we lack ownership of our personal side, it becomes our biggest problem in connecting with community people.

Your awareness and learning increase in the face of contradictions. So love contradictions. Seek out contradictions.

Often, the “thinking table” where solutions are discussed is a “privilege table”, excluding those who have little power. We cannot continue to reinforce this practice and need to open up opportunities for all to come to the table.

The messenger is the ask, “Am I the right person to deliver the message?”

We need SAFE places to unlearn, to become vulnerable, and to talk about things we are afraid to name.

Often, leaders and people in power have radical discourse...yet face great limitations in putting this discourse into action.

Over the next few months, we will be looking at way we can apply Dr. Bracho and LHA’s principles in our work.

And, in the spirit of opening up the personal side of my life, I wanted to respond to the many requests for new pictures of my granddaughter Lucia that I got last week. On the left is one of my favorites taken in late August. Lucia was to be a flower girl in her uncle’s wedding but ended up with a bad case of croup. So, here she is wearing her dress and celebrating virtually with Uncle Joey and Aunt Kate.


The picture on the right depicts Lucia loving her peas.  The expression on her face might be my all-time favorite — plus, she is wearing her Green Bay Packer colors.

Now, back to Dr. Bracho: Which “sound bite” strikes a chord with you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Editor’s note: You can learn more about Dr. Bracho and her work by viewing the following resources.

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