Headshot of Jose next to white graphic with text for Voices of Making Waves
Career Development and Success | Educational Equity | Stories

Making Waves in Healthcare: Being the One to Help

by Bonnie Shea

Voices of Making Waves: Meet Jose

When Jose C. was in the fourth grade and his mother brought him to an interview to join the Making Waves Education Program, he didn’t realize it would change his trajectory for the next 12 plus years.

“As a kid I wasn’t grasping the scope of it. I just knew that it was a great opportunity for me and my family. I didn’t know this program would change my family’s life. I’m forever grateful,” says Jose.

In middle school and high school, Jose was part of the ‘5th Wave’ of students who participated in the after-school program that has now grown into Making Waves Academy, a public charter school serving 5th through 12th graders, and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP.

“It was a big-time commitment, but no sacrifice means no victory,” says Jose.

Upon graduating from high school in San Francisco, Jose received continued support from Making Waves through a scholarship and one-on-one coaching for college. Now, he has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of California, Merced, and works as an Emergency Medical Technical (EMT) and volunteer firefighter in the Bay Area.

Though he started his career in sales, Jose was drawn to change his path, completing EMT courses at the City College of San Francisco and starting new jobs in healthcare and firefighting—all amidst a global pandemic and in a state with record-breaking wildfires occurring more and more often.

Meeting a New Challenge Every Day

“I don’t consider it work because I like it so much. Every day brings a new challenge,” says Jose, who plans to become certified as a paramedic next.

“When people call 911 it’s because they need help. When you arrive on scene, you are often seeing people on their worst day. It doesn’t hurt to be nice, to always be respectful and always be empathetic. It helps to be the best patient advocate you can be.”

In reflecting on his new career in healthcare, Jose recalls a story of when emergency responders came to care for him at his home when he was only a few years old and was suffering a febrile seizure.

“They were there for me, now I can be there for somewhere else. You’ve got someone’s life in your hands. That’s a huge responsibility but it’s also a big cross to bear to know someone has to do it. I want to be the one to help. It’s one of the most direct ways I can give back,” says Jose.

Jose credits his determination and adaptability to experiences such as being on sports teams in middle and high school and meeting people from different backgrounds during college. “I learned through my life experiences. When you expose yourself to things you’re uncomfortable with, you gain a lot from it. I’m grateful for the experiences of working with different types of people,” he says.

Jose also served in a leadership role as vice president of finance for his fraternity at UC Merced, where his sister, Marcela, who participates in the Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, is now a second-year student.

“Going to college and being in leadership positions really grew my self-confidence. I was lacking confidence at that time so putting myself in these positions to be successful really helped show me what was possible,” says Jose. “Looking back, it’s the best decision I could have made. I love UC Merced, so it makes me happy that my sister is going there now.”

“So many futures have been shaped differently because of Making Waves,” Jose says. “We’re always going to be Wave-Makers.”

This originally appeared in the Making Waves Foundation 2020-21 Impact Report as a part of a feature on Making Waves alumni modeling empathy in providing patient care during the pandemic and beyond.

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