The California Gold Rush, Hollywood and the Silicone Valley are all synonymous with California's history of economic opportunities and prosperity. Yet, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, 12.8% of Californians lacked enough resources—about $25,500 per year for a family of four—to meet basic needs in 2018. (Please note that this data not not cover the economic impact of COVID-19). Poverty rates across southern San Joaquin Valley counties are significantly higher than the state average;
Moving from my hometown of Porterville, CA in 1985 (population in 25,000) and going to Fresno State (Fresno, CA population 300,000) for college was an amazing experience. Besides the passion for teaching by the amazing science faculty and staff, my college experience allowed me recognize that not everyone thinks like people in "Porterville". I met students and faculty from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, New Jersey, Spain, Nigeria, England, China, India and Iraq. These interactions forced me to question the stereotypes, thoughts and opinions that had developed over the first 18 years of my life. Although quite fulfilling, I don't know how much these interactions with diverse students, faculty and staff has had on my financial future.
There are many variables that contribute to poverty rates. A constant for greater economic success is literacy and education. California Governor, Gavin Newsom and the California State University (CSU) system collaborated to revise the CSU General Education curriculum. According to the August 17, 2020 LA Times, "The decision (for curriculum revision) comes amid a growing push for ethnic studies in public education following Black Lives Matter protests and calls to dismantle systemic and unconscious racism, starting in schools. The bill signed by Newsom, AB 1460, requires all CSU undergraduates to take at least one three-unit course in ethnic studies, defined as having a focus on African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/a Americans and Native Americans." Will a 18-week, 3.0 unit course to instill diversity in a student's life have a significant economic influence on the future of the student? My hypothesis is...no.
There is good news regarding steps to decrease the probability of poverty. Research from the American Enterprise Institute has discovered the factors that dramatically decrease poverty:
In 2019-20, the Bakersfield College student body was nearly 38,000 students. There were 1609 students that transferred to a 4-year university. A large proportion of these students (81% , or 1,314 out of 1,609 students) transferred to one of 23 CSU campuses. All CSU students, (approximately 481,000 students) will be now be required to take an Ethnic Studies course to meet the graduation requirements. But wouldn't a personal finances be considerably beneficial to the student's future? The student would be able to;
True empowerment of our lives comes from basic academic and financial literacy. The requirement of a Personal Finance class will have a lasting impact on the student's and community's future. But what the heck do I know...I'm just Joe.
My wife, Christine, and I were invited by some close friends for dinner on a Tuesday in October in California...this means Taco Tuesday. Our friends mentioned that they were going to Cabo San Lucas for a relaxing vacation. Friends of theirs had to cancel and they asked us to join them on their vacation. The flight to Mexico was only 4 days away. Fifteen minutes and a combination of four smart phones, a credit card, WiFi, Hilton points, two margaritas...and we are ready for a relaxing seven-day Cabo vacation.
The resort in Cabo was beautiful. The property had several infinity pools, a man-made breaker for safe swimming in the warm ocean waters, comfortable loungers by the pool, sea-side dining and our room had a beautiful view of the Sea of Cortez (see picture above). Is there a better place to hold Zoom office hours?
Our average day was, wake up, have breakfast, grab a lounge chair by the pool, have great conversations in the pool while drinking fruity beverages, drive into Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo for some sight seeing and dinner, dessert at the resort...and do it all over again the next day. It can't get any better than this. What can go wrong?
Several days into the vacation, our friends received a phone call from their 21 year-old daughter. She said she was having horrible headaches. Her dad told her to go to the doctor for a check-up. She was given medication for migraines and an I.V. to help with dehydration. The headaches continued for two more days. Her dad told her to go to the hospital for another check-up. The test results showed some abnormalities in her nervous tissue with a potential of meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord or brain). Continued tests revealed that their daughter actually had several brain aneurisms (an enlargement of a blood vessel caused by a weakening of the vessel walls).
Swimming in the infinity pool and eating fresh ceviche was now transformed into getting next flight out of Mexico. They packed their bags and we immediately sped away to the airport to catch the last flight out of Cabo. The 20 minute drive to the airport felt like several hours. They were on the phone with several physicians as we hurried to the airport. The first doctor's recommendation was to send their daughter to Los Angeles for the best care possible. He said, 'This is what I would do for my daughter". Several minutes later, we arrived at Cabo San Lucas Terminal #2 and a second physician recommended, "Time is of the essence. We need to operate on her immediately. Delaying the surgery to transport her to Los Angeles is too dangerous. This is what I would do for my daughter." Our friends said, "Okay...do what you think is best". Christine and I gave them a huge hug as they ran off to catch their flight home to be with their daughter.
One minute, we are dipping their toes in the Sea of Cortez and the next minute our friends are wondering if their daughter will make it to tomorrow. The initial surgery was not going well. The doctors quickly decided to transport her to Los Angeles for emergency surgery. They kissed their daughter on the forehead thinking this would be the last time they would see her alive. Their daughter had multiple aneurisms, including one that was bleeding. Although the chances of survival were very low, recent surgical advancement (Coil Embolization) made it possible to save the life of their beautiful daughter. As a matter of fact, she miraculously went home nine days after surgery with no lingering symptoms. She still has a few hurdles she will have to overcome, but their daughter is home.
One of the interesting conversations me and my friend had was about the lack of appreciation for a "normal" life. All he wanted was a "normal" life again. I've experienced several situations that have enlightened me on celebrating a "normal' life. Here are several "normal" events that I try to appreciate every day: