An Interview with PBHA’s New Deputy Director: Mercedes M. Soto

November 29th, 2012

An Interview with PBHA’s New Deputy Director: Mercedes M. Soto

by Mina Makarious

Q: What experience from your time as a student at PBHA has stayed with you during your work after college?

There are so many experiences that I had as a PBHA student that stayed
with me after college.  Twenty years ago, when I was starting my work
in public education, housing, and community-based human services, I
continued to reflect on my early experiences of working with other
young people who shared the belief that together we could create fair
housing, equal education, and economic opportunities and make our
communities vibrant, safe places to live, work, learn, and play.

As a parent organizer and teacher, I continued to work with my peers
to provide, interesting, hands on learning experiences for children.
Because of my experiences at PBHA, I walked in the door knowing how to
partner with community members, design and implement relevant
curriculum and manage a classroom and facilitate young people taking
ownership of their learning.

Q: What is the biggest difference you have noticed between PBHA then and now?

PBHA then hosted fewer programs, many of which required deep,
multi-year, commitments of time and energy to build and sustain
relationships, which were held primarily by students.  There were
fewer staff and fewer officers and fewer vans and other resources.

PBHA now hosts more programs, employs more staff to support students,
intentionally trains and develop students in non-profit management,
and program management, and community organizing and advocacy.  PBHA
Now is thoughtfully building capacity to ensure program quality and
evaluate outcomes.  Many of the sustained relationships in the
communities we serve are held by staff.   There are many other
activities competing for student time and attention and many more
programs require lighter touches.  Students have many commitments and
regularly use technology to communicate with their peers.

Although, this was not a question, I want to emphasize how the core
values and strong sense of ownership and stewardship and strong
commitment to working together for the benefit of all have endured for
more than a century!

Q:  What is the best way for PBHA alums to support current service at PBHA?

1. Share the history and context for the work and serve as resources
for students, especially if you continue to do this work.

2. Serve as an ambassador for PBHA and share how the opportunities you
had to serve impacted your development as a community leader.

3. Share your professional networks and encourage others to engage
students and recent graduates to continue to serve after college.

4. Contribute financially to PBHA’s sustainability, including
supporting initiatives to engage students from all socio-economic
backgrounds in service,.

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