Duo Serving as Community Health Advocates
Recent Western Nevada College graduates Antonio Gudino and Frankie Perez may be seen as typical young men in their early 20’s, struggling to mature into adulthood and begin their careers. But that would be only a small part of the picture. In addition to being busy and active young men, they are also selfless individuals who are role models in the community.
Gudino and Perez are community health advocates for Partnership Carson City, a community coalition focused on providing a safer, healthier and drug-free society. PCC is dedicated to providing education, substance abuse prevention efforts, and information on healthier lifestyles, mostly in the Hispanic community.
Certified by Nevada State Health Division, the bilingual community health advocates are able to offer assistance for Latino community members in the health care system. They assist with scheduling appointments, completing medical forms and applications for services, finding medical or mental health services, acting as language interpreters for health service providers, providing health and chronic disease information, and locating additional support and resources.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” said the 22-year-old Gudino, who finished an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Graphic Communications from WNC in the spring and plans to continue his education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the fall. “I’m very committed to helping the community. You get to be the superhero.”
The 21-year-old Perez, who earned an Associate of Arts degree from WNC in the spring, foresees that his community involvement will continue when he resumes his education at the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. He plans to pursue a political science degree at UNR and eventually became a lawyer.
“When I’m helping others, I get so much satisfaction out of it,” Perez said. “Helping people, in general, is a rewarding experience.”
PCC Executive Director Kathy Bartosz said the WNC grads are part of a growing number of young adults becoming social activists who address injustices and needs to improve their communities.
“Antonio and Frankie exemplify the awakening of social justice among the younger generation, rattling the conscience of the Baby Boomers whose enthusiasm slowly subsides with age,” Bartosz said. “These men abound with energy and a strong commitment to making good things happen for our communities.”
Perez said his involvement with the Latino Student Club at WNC introduced him to helping others. Much of the work that he does as a health advocate is surveying community members to identify current problems. He also recently surveyed Carson City judges to learn about alcohol abuse among 18- to 20-year-olds. He’s also surveyed shoppers at local markets to pinpoint the biggest obstacle they are facing today.
“The No. 1 response I’m getting is they want help understanding the Affordable Care Act,” Perez said.
Perez also has been immersed in the hot topic of immigration reform over the past year.
Bartosz said that the young men bring a fearless approach to their work.
“They will go anywhere, knock on any door and talk to anyone who will listen to their message of hope and opportunity.”
Gudino is PCC’s technical and marketing coordinator and finds his role in the community enriching. “I’ve had the pleasure of working in the community for a few years now, and it is very rewarding,” Gudino said. “People are appreciative of the little time you spend with them trying to help them.”
He became involved in PCC through an enrichment program while he attended a local middle school. The youth group, which was called Stand Tall and is now known as Youth Influencing Everyday Life Decisions, was resolved to steer their peers away from underage drinking through positive and wise choices.
“At the time, there was the kid trend of going around drinking. We needed to set an example for everybody else and an example for me,” said Gudino, noting that the incoming club members took a pledge to remain drug-free. “Through the involvement of this group, I learned I could make a difference.”
Eventually, Stand Tall expanded their focus and reach to also include substance abuse awareness.
“We would volunteer our time to provide educational presentations to agencies and at community events, organize fun events for teens and promote a drug-free environment in our school and in our community,” he said.
Gudino has also worked for the United Latino Community, which will soon become the Hispanic Connection of Northern Nevada.
“Our main goal was to help the Hispanic community with immigration, translation, and interpretation, and assist clients with needed services such as job placement, vocational guidance, tax preparation and minor legal work.”
Bartosz said PCC has benefited from a younger generation of social workers’ enthusiasm and knowledge of the ever-changing world of social technology.
“These young men have helped our organization adapt to the new communication systems with websites, Facebook, Twitter accounts and phone apps,” Bartosz said. “Without their assistance, I still would not know how to operate my computer. We need them. We need their energy, their optimism and their knowledge of our changing technological world. What do they need from us? The opportunity to show their stuff.”
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Carson City, NV 89703