The SFCCC/AmeriCorps Experience: A Team’s Perspective

As SFCCC prepares to say goodbye to another team of our beloved AmeriCorps Members, we asked Vet SOS AmeriCorps Project Assistant, Celeste Quintero and SOS AmeriCorps Member, Michael Ho to share their SFCCC/AmeriCorps experience with us.

This is their perspective of the SFCCC/AmeriCorps experience and what the future currently holds for both of them.

 

Can you tell me a little about your background?

Celeste: Throughout my life I have had an immense passion for animals and helping others.  I grew up in San Antonio, TX in a single parent household with a parent who worked 3 jobs to make ends meet.  Growing up on the “poor” side of town I never took anything for granted and learned to appreciate the little things that make life go round.  I worked hard in school and became the first in my family to go to college.  After high school I moved to Galveston/Houston for undergrad and graduated from Texas A&M University Galveston.  Shortly after moving to the Bay Area in 2009 and after almost 10 years in the maritime / oil & gas industry I decided to change careers and pursue a path in veterinary medicine.  And so, here I am today…

Michael: I am originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan and lived there until moving to San Francisco one year ago. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Spanish.

What interested you about SFCCC?

Celeste: Over the years I have volunteered at many soup kitchens, resource centers, and animal shelters and I strongly support low cost / free access to health care for both humans and animals.  I find the work that SFCCC does incredibly important for the population it serves.

Michael: What really interested me about the SFCCC was the SOS program. I really wanted to gain experience working with an underserved, urban population and I was drawn to SOS’s unique mobile model of care.

 What was your most memorable experience as an AmeriCorps Member at SFCCC?

Celeste:  One day I was speaking with a client on the phone who had called to ask a question about her pet.  At the end of our conversation I asked how she was doing.  She began talking to me about many good and bad things going on in her life.  We laughed together, she cried some, and then we laughed again.  As our conversation came to a close she paused and then said “thank you so much for asking how I was. I’m so sorry that I got carried away, it’s just been so long since someone not only asked me that question, but then took the time to listen and care”.

Michael: I think the most memorable experience I’ve had this year is helping one of our clients get reconstructive knee surgery. He came to the SOS van in excruciating pain, but had no insurance or primary care provider. Over the course of two and a half months, I escorted him to the Medi-Cal office and helped him enroll, I scheduled and accompanied him to his first primary care appointment, drove him to San Francisco General Hospital for an MRI, dropped him off on the day of his knee surgery, and helped him keep track of his subsequent physical therapy appointments. His mobility is now greatly improved and one day he hopes to have surgery to repair his other knee. Over the course of this whole process, we developed a strong relationship that I will remember whenever I think of my time at SFCCC.

 One is the one significant thing that you will take away from your experience as a SFCCC AmeriCorps Member?

Celeste: The power of human connection.  We do more here than provide a safe place and medical care for our clients.  We connect with them on a personal level.  We know their story, we ask about their days, we give them hugs and smile.  We laugh together.  These moments, these emotional and connections change them and us forever. 

Michael: One thing I will take away from my experience as the SOS AmeriCorps member is to always be cognizant of the barriers that homeless people face when trying to access healthcare. The healthcare system can be very intimidating, especially to someone without stable housing, transportation, or insurance, but I want to help demystify this process for our clients.

Can you give me a fun fact about your time at SFCCC?

Celeste: Each clinic we transport pets to the SPCA for spay/neuter services.  Some dogs have never been in a car.  It can be a challenge to get them in or out, but it’s always an adventure on the drive with them!

Michael: I can now say that I have experience driving (and parallel parking!) a massive medical van.

 What are your future plans?

Celeste:  I have decided to cross over from the animal world to human world.  I am looking forward to applying to graduate school and begin studying psychology and hope to eventually become a licensed counselor and pursue a career in social work / counseling at SROs or community health centers. 

 

Michael: I am starting medical school at the University of Michigan in August. I hope to pursue a career in primary care.

On behalf of the SFCCC Board of Directors, and staff, we would like to thank Celeste, Michael, and Marlena for their commitment to the SFCCC mission, and their help with providing quality care to SFCCC’s patients and their animals.

We wish them the best of luck in all future endeavors.

Thank you Celeste, Michael, and Marlena!