My Love of Gardening and Teaching
YE4C’s first editorial board was in place from February 2020 through June 2020. The group was made up of 10 young people from around the country. They helped organize and improve content for the YE4C website. They also created content for YE4C and gave feedback to federal agencies. We invited each editorial board member to reflect on their time with the editorial board and to tell us more about themselves and their hopes for the future.
Today’s Inspiring Story follows Mateo Valdivia. He is a 22-year-old rising senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). He has a deep passion for gardening and inclusive teaching. He hopes to become a teacher in the future.
How did you hear about the YE4C Editorial Board?
I’m a USCS Biology major. I was looking into something artistic and related to public health in some way when I found an internship with Santa Cruz’s public health department. I got placed in their Teenage Reproduction and Sexual Health Division. I created important infographics of information to make it easy for people to get correct resources. At the end of the internship, they asked me to return, but I couldn’t. However, I stayed in touch and they forwarded me the email that the YE4C staff sent out looking for Editorial Board members. They asked for people between 16 and 24 years old. I was turning 23 so I looked into it. I’m an educator and think it is super important to have content that is age-appropriate and accessible to different audiences. The Editorial Board is focused on doing exactly that.
Tell us about your time as a YE4C Editorial Board member.
I mainly edited material and provided feedback on content for my age group. I also brainstormed ideas to help YE4C solve problems. One of my favorite memories of being on the team was around the beginning of quarantining. I was asked to provide feedback to federal agencies to make sure the pandemic-related information was easy for young people to understand. I was on the phone with YE4C staff for what felt like 2 hours going piece by piece through the material. I felt like it was super productive and that I was making a genuine contribution. After working for the last few months, I learned about the great things YE4C does. They offer so many different resources, opportunities in so many different areas. It would be overwhelming, but they do a good job at separating content into different tabs and have a search bar. If I’m looking for something, there is a high likelihood that it is already on their site. I also really love reading the Inspiring Stories on the page! Seeing other young people make real change in this world is really...well...inspiring.
How have you been involved in education before your time with YE4C?
So many of the things I am involved in kind of spiral from each other. I originally joined an undergraduate fellowship at the Center for Innovation of Teaching and Learning. It was a yearlong internship where every person got their own individual internship. It could be as big as we wanted and there were no bounds on what it could be. I initially wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I asked myself, “What is a problem I am noticing at UCSC?”. I had spent the last 2-3 years working at UCSC’s Arboretum, which is a specialized botanical garden. I was typically one of the few students of color on staff. There are a lot of underlying misconceptions about nature and gardening because of my cultural upbringing and background. So, I thought the Arboretum needs workers, they could benefit from having a more culturally diverse staff, and many people of color lack the same resources to get involved with nature as others. I decided to fix this issue all at once by building a course specifically for people who may not have the opportunity to do something like this elsewhere. We are currently working on the curriculum and hoping to begin the course in the fall.
What are some of your future career goals?
I was originally planning on going to medical school. However, I found my passion for teaching students after realizing I liked my science classes more when I could teach it to help other kids. I’m having chills just thinking about the first time I did a teaching internship in the classroom. We spend all day interacting with teachers and they learn so much about their students. The way teachers can build a relationship with students and make intentional connections with them is incredible. Every part of your experiences and identity relates to how you are in the classroom. I loved that impact and want to be able to do more of that as a job.
After I graduate with a degree in human biology and STEM education, I plan to get a Master’s in Education and preliminary authorization to teach as a bilingual educator. Hopefully, I can teach at urban, high needs public high schools in California. I want to help marginalized students realize their potential.
What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue their passions?
So, my main piece of advice would be to not feel limited by anything. Many of us are already in the mindset to give up because there are so many obstacles put in our way that are beyond our control. It’s important to realize your potential and to not feel held back with an initial lack of resources. You can have so many ideas all at once. As long as you are sharing them with other people, your ideas are becoming real. You also don’t have to pursue every single one of them. If you aren’t sure what you like or what you want to do, I would suggest trying [things] out. Notice problems around you and design solutions for them. Develop these solutions with the recipient in mind and use your unique perspective to create the solution unlike anyone else.