Grassroots Health is proud to have Darien Thomas (aka D-Note),Program Manager, and Ana Esperanza Ávalos (Espy), Program Coordinator as part of our team! Both joined Grassroots Health back in the summer, and already they are making an INCREDIBLE IMPACT. This week they are representing Grassroots at the Catalogue for Philanthropy Change-Makers Event in Downtown DC – raising awareness and support to advance health equity! We caught up with them to learn more about their passions and why they SHOW UP each and every day for students and our student-athlete volunteers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
What’s there to say?! I am a DMV native, I come from a HUGE Salvadoran family with over 30 cousins on my father’s side alone, and I love music. My family is extremely musical, and though I don’t play an instrument, I did catch the dancing bug. My paternal grandmother taught me how to dance bachata when I was about five years old, and I haven’t stopped dancing since.
I’m pretty laid back but love being creative and doing adventurous things. I’m passionate about the work that I do and love learning new things. I usually put a lot of thought and feeling into the things I do.
Which curriculum do you feel most excited about? And why?
I’m most excited about our mental health curriculum. As someone who’s struggled with mental illness while growing up in an environment full of stigma regarding mental health, I think it is so important to debunk mental health assumptions and normalize taking care of your mental health. This work matters to me on so many levels, and I am so grateful to be a part of the change.
That’s hard to say, because I really like them all, but if I had to choose one it would be mental health because it plays such an integral role in every aspect of our lives, including the things we are teaching our students. If they’re not operating in a healthy mental state, then making healthy decisions around things like sexual health, among other things, becomes more difficult.
This curriculum is teaching kids the things I wish someone would’ve taught me at an early age. Learning about mental health promotion practices and their real world applications that are relevant to young students is a game changer and I’m excited that students get to learn this in middle school which will prepare them for the difficult situations and decisions they’ll face in high school and beyond. And they get to learn it all in such a fun and interactive way!
When you’re not killin it at Grassroots, how do you like to spend your time?
Besides dancing, I like to express myself through many other artistic avenues, none of which I’m particularly good at lol. In other words, I am a “fake creative,” just out here trying to stay creatively busy.
I love spending time with family and friends and trying new things. I am a creative at heart so I’m also getting to a space now where I’m making more time to do things like play my instruments, write, and just do things that inspire joy for myself.
We’re all about praising and celebrating each other for a job well done. We call these “shout-outs.” If you could give a shout-out to anyone right now, who would it be and why?
I would like to shout out my older sister. She recently enrolled in school to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Beyond that, she’s an amazing mother to my beautiful nephews, and one of my best friends.
I mean i could give a shoutout to everyone, but if i had to choose just a couple, I’d give a shoutout to both Jane and Mac, because stepping into this role, I see how much they did before I got here, and they were stretched thin but kept it together. And I see how they continue to show up with the same level of passion everyday!
In one sentence, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that there is no set timeline for anything in life. Everyone’s journey is different, and we’re better for it.
I feel in life I’m just getting better at asking for and receiving advice. This may not be a piece of advice exactly but more of a proverb: if you want to go quick, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. That has really helped me to refocus sometimes and remember I can’t always do it all by myself, and that I don’t have to because most of the time there is someone willing to help.