January 6, 2022
Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino, Executive Director, One Step A La Vez
Every issue we feature stories of individuals and agencies that are making a difference in their communities during these challenging times since COVID-19. Today we are talking with Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino, Executive Director, One Step A La Vez.
How did you get interested in your work at One Step A La Vez?
Ana Rosa: I got interested in supporting La Lucha when I found out about the UFW Pictsweet Mushroom boycott as a freshwoman in college in 1998 during my involvement in El Congreso, the official MEChA chapter at UCSB (Chicanx/Latinx support group and political student organization). The struggle of farm workers felt similar to my working class Mexican migrant parents. I became UFW's volunteer boycott coordinator for Santa Barbara County. It took almost the whole time I was in college, but we finally won that fight.
I became the Executive Director at One Step A La Vez on January 4, 2020 and I feel so blessed to be part of such an amazing organization.
What is your passion for working in the community?
Ana Rosa: I know what it is like to struggle and I don't think folks should have to struggle so much. My passion is about people seeing their worth and demanding better conditions for themselves and their families.
How are you specifically addressing issues of Health Equity in your work and your community? How are you making a difference?
Ana Rosa: Regarding physical health, we conducted COVID-19 vaccine clinics at our teen center. We have been working with MICOP to bring their COVID-19 rapid testing program to Fillmore on a bi-weekly basis.
Regarding mental/emotional health, we organized groups like Project Pride that supports LGBTQIA youth, as well as Conocimiento, which brings together the youth of Santa Paula and Fillmore to break-down stigmas and enjoy life together. We also participated in Mental Health Month activities in Fillmore and with county programs including VCBH Logrando Bienestar.
What are the areas that you hope to make changes in?
Ana Rosa: I really want to be a catalyst in bringing youth to the awareness that they are beautiful and gifted as they are. They don't deserve to be racially profiled or be made to feel like they are not worthy of having a happy life. I am working to bring more economic opportunities to folks from the Santa Clara River Valley through our work with unions, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and Pass It forward (PIF). We just had a couple folks graduate from ARC's Second Chance Academy and will be starting our next PIF co-hort in late January. We are also working with a local cameraman to provide jobs in Hollywood through a new partnership with ManifestWorks.
Tell us one thing about you that helps us get to know you better?
Ana Rosa: My first victorious organizing campaign was when I was nine years old to save our technology center at the elementary school I attended. I enjoy basketball and being a swing dancer.
If you could give a closing remark for or words of inspiration for the community during this time, what would it be?
Ana Rosa: We are the people we have been waiting for. "If not us, then who? If not now, then when?"- John Lewis.
Thank you Ana Rosa for sharing your experience with us. You are an inspiring Driver of Change!
Our mission is to serve the communities of the Santa Clara Valley by providing a safe environment for 13-19 year olds and preparing informed, empowered youth who are equipped with the tools to lead; cultivate cultural awareness; bridge the gaps of inequality; and advocate for fair, just and healthy individuals and community.
The One Step A La Vez program began in 2008 with a group of teens and founder Lynn Edmonds who wanted to bring needed services to youth in Fillmore & Piru. They saw their community was plagued with issues such as poverty, drug and alcohol use, family violence, and mental health needs and they decided to create more access to services in their community.
These youth also articulated a need for a safe place for teens, a transitional place to get services, but also a place to get help with whatever problems they might be facing. The youth created the One Step A La Vez Program which includes the One Step Center to provide behavioral health outreach, engagement, prevention and intervention services to the communities of the Santa Clara Valley (Fillmore, Piru & Santa Paula).