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Check Out David Diaz’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Diaz.

Hi David, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was born in the late 1980’s to two hard-working parents, Raquel and Jose, in Ensenada, Mexico. We immigrated to the United States with a dream; to create a better life and opportunities for our family. My parents raised me in the communities of El Monte/South El Monte where I made some of my best friends, memories and met my wife. My parents went above and beyond to provide economic security for myself and two siblings, working multiple jobs and creating a successful daycare business for over a decade. Their relentless work ethic inspired me to advance my education, be the first college graduate in our family and eventually receive a Masters of Public Health from Claremont with one goal in mind: Come back and serve the communities that raised me. Growing up in El Monte and South El Monte, my parents at different times in my life had to work multiple jobs. Working so much didn’t afford them the time to cook fresh, healthy meals and so I grew up eating a lot of fast and/or frozen food, picking up bad nutrition habits along the way. Although my parents put me in sports; boxing, soccer, baseball, and football, I was a pretty chubby kid all the way through high school.

It wasn’t until I was about 19 years old and 260 pounds that I decided that I needed to make a bold change in my lifestyle, nutrition and fitness. I joined a Mixed Martial Arts gym in Pasadena, refocused my nutrition and went on to lose approximately 110 pounds over the course of 18 months. Simultaneously, I was attending Rio Hondo College, aiming to transfer to a State college as soon as possible. The discipline, hard work, and experience I gained through practicing mixed martial arts translated into my school and professional work that I carry to this day. I ended up going to college at Arizona State to study psychology and social health and learned how systems play a role in determining the outcomes of people’s well-being and quality of life. Right now, you can go to this website to find out how your life expectancy and quality of life compares to others (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data-visualization/life-expectancy/). What I’ve found through my education and continue to experience through my lived experience is that folks from my community will continue to suffer a poorer quality of life and have a shorter life expectancy because of the discriminant systems.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Working at a nonprofit has a lot of perks and I feel very passionate about the work that I get to work on to create a more sustainable, equitable, and livable San Gabriel Valley. However, there have been times where you feel discouraged that others don’t share the same passion/interest or support our initiatives. As a parent of an eight months old child, I feel a lot of sense of urgency to act on the current climate crisis to create the bold change needed to curve the debilitating consequences of global warming. It’s an ongoing, iterative process to work alongside stakeholders, elected officials, and community members to strengthen or build understanding around climate action. As mentioned previously, the communities of El Monte and South El Monte experience high poverty rates, that can include housing and food insecurity, so when we talk to people about climate action at the local level, it may not rise to the top as a high priority for community members of elected officials. Nonetheless, we are committed to working alongside community to ensure a Just Transition, create community driven solutions so that we can co-create multiple benefit projects and benefits for the people of El Monte and South El Monte.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Since 2014 I have been working and/or volunteering for an environmental justice and public health nonprofit, Active San Gabriel Valley where we focus on addressing mobility, climate, and community health and wellness. Through my education at Rio Hondo College, Arizona State, and Claremont, I learned the impact of racist policies and how the system disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous and people of color. The Environmental Protection Agency describes the City’s of El Monte and South El Monte as top 10% disadvantaged communities across the state due to high levels of air pollution, high unemployment, high poverty rates, low park space, and low educational attainment. As the ActiveSGV Executive Director, I’m responsible for overall organization management, development, and execution of our mission; to create a more sustainable, equitable, and livable San Gabriel Valley. Over the course of the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to work on many impactful projects with my colleagues, from creating temporary parks through open streets programming (626GoldenStreets.com), introducing El Monte’s first ever Bike Skills Park, and working on over a dozen master plans.

Additionally, in 2017, I decided to run for public office, where I was successful, and currently serve as the Board Clerk for the El Monte Union High School District, representing five comprehensive high schools, one continuation school, and the best Adult school in the San Gabriel Valley. In addition, I have the opportunity to serve on multiple committees/boards: Investing in Place, Advisory Board Member Metro Sustainability Council, Member Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Council Member, Member Measure W, Watershed Area Steering Committee, Member Measure A Oversight Committee, Chair Former South El Monte Planning Commissioner (2015-2017) I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I get to help others and work in the community I grew up in and to be part of the change I would like to see in the world. As a father to an eight months old baby, I would love to be able to say to him that I did everything I could to make sure his children have an opportunity to breathe clean air, play a local park, and live a good a quality of life.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
My family, my community, and my work matter most to me right now. In particular, as we all are trying to survive through this pandemic, I’m really concerned about the well-being of my family, community, and colleagues. I wish the United States adopted a more proactive, people first approach toward this pandemic, where they paid people’s wages, canceled rent/mortgage payments, canceled student loan debt, supported small businesses so they wouldn’t have to make the decision between losing their job or risking their personal safety. I’m also really enjoying being a new dad, I love it! Amidst all the chaos in the world, I find peace and joy being with my son. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow up, playing catch and running with him.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Rudy Espinoza Ernest Lee Anais Medina Diaz Eric Jung

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