Keeping a Promise

It was winter 2002 in Hermiston, Ore., when Jesus Jaime-Diaz sat down with his 14-year-old brother, May, and told him that he could do whatever he wanted. After everything Jaime-Diaz had been through – poverty, gangs, violence, arrests – he wanted to set a positive example for May. “You can go to college. You can go to the other side of Oregon” Jaime-Diaz told him. “You can be a Beaver or a Duck, and I’ll help you buy a car.” Jaime-Diaz, sure that his brother would choose an expensive car, quietly began to wonder what he’d gotten himself into.

May told his older brother that he wanted a 1977, Camaro, and that he’d rather be a Beaver than a Duck. Jaime-Diaz didn’t know why May said that. And he never would. May died a month after their conversation, when their mother’s single-wide trailer burned down.

“It didn’t seem like life was worth living after that,” says Jaime-Diaz. “It’ll never be the same without him, I will always feel numb & empty.”
What made Jaime-Diaz persist was May’s wish to become a Beaver. “When he died that popped into my head. And I made myself a promise. In order to keep myself alive I’m going to honor May and become a Beaver. I thought, ‘What you wanted to do I’m going to do for you,’” Jaime-Diaz says.

A Long Way to Go

On paper, college for someone like Jaime-Diaz seemed improbable. He’d dropped out of high school, and had been working at Hermiston’s Wal-Mart distribution center for four years when he decided to get his GED. “I always hung my head low when I thought about how I didn’t have a diploma,” Jaime-Diaz says. “It always hurt that I was a dropout.” He finished his GED a few months after May’s death, and then got his Associate’s degree at Blue Mountain Community College in 2005. “I remember when I was at Blue Mountain on my first day,” Jaime-Diaz says. “I thought, ‘I am in college.’ To this day it still feels unreal. The other day I was freezing on an old couch at home, hungry, suffering with my family and now I’m here.”

After Blue Mountain, Jaime-Diaz honored May and became a Beaver. It was through fulfilling his promise that he found his passion – helping educate and uplift marginalized communities. This spring, Jaime-Diaz graduated with majors in speech communication and ethnic studies. But before that, he spent 10 weeks at an internship working with barrio youth in Santa Cruz, California. Their stories were all too similar to his own.

Giving Back

Jesus Jaime-Diaz holds a Barrios Unidos t-shirt - Jaime-Diaz worked at the Santa Cruz organization last year, mentoring at-risk youth.

Jaime-Diaz first heard about the Santa Cruz-based organization Barrios Unidos when he spotted one of their posters in ethnic studies professor Robert Thompson’s office. It depicts two hands clasping each other in a gesture of solidarity. The image resonated with Jaime-Diaz, who decided that day he would work for Barrios. He made that a reality after e-mailing the organization to volunteer his services.

From January to March 2009, Jaime-Diaz worked with at-risk kids of all ages. At the Live Oaks Community Center, he assisted in workshops for teenagers who were on probation. He played volleyball with them and cooked traditional Mexican dishes, like ceviche, with them. Soon, teens who weren’t even on probation started showing up, simply to have a new, healthy place to hang out. Jaime-Diaz spent time at Pajaro Valley High School in Watsonville, helping reduce gang hostility among students. He worked at Barrios’ Cesar Chavez High School for Social Change, too, teaching workshops on the core foundation of ethnic studies – slavery, genocide and colonization.

Through Barrios, Jaime-Diaz worked with young kids at the Beach Flats Community Center, which was a home away from home for young children whose parents worked multiple jobs, and who were at high risk of succumbing to the gang life. “I got to play Candyland with the kids,” he says. “I never got to as a kid, because I didn’t speak English and could never join in. Those kids helped me heal emotionally, and I will always be thankful and never forget them.”

Jaime-Diaz got to give the kids in Santa Cruz what he had always been looking for – a mentor. “They told me I made a difference in their lives, and that no one had ever treated them that way. I’d always looked for that kind of guidance as a little kid.”

The Road Ahead

Now, Jaime-Diaz is enrolled in Oregon State’s Master’s of Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) program, studying adult education, speech communication and ethnic studies. “My focus is on college recruitment and retention of oppressed and underrepresented communities,” he says. “I hope to pursue my doctorate in adult education with an emphasis in community college leadership, and ride it out as a ‘Beaver.’” Eventually he wants to return to eastern Oregon and develop an intercommunity approach in the recruitment of Latina/o youth. “Education does not make you better than anyone else. What it does is give you a moral responsibility to assist others in getting there” Jaime-Diaz says.

en Español

29 Responses to “Keeping a Promise”

  1. Rita says:

    Jesus. Congratulation!!! I pray that you continue to follow your dream and to help others. Ethically, it is the only thing to do. You give an education to one person, you build a better world. I am glad you see the importance of education not just any education but one that will lift the spirit of others. Don’t forget to reach out to others for help. A mentor needs another mentor in the journey. This is the only way. According to the African proverbs say: “It takes a village to raise a child.” We need one another and we need to be respectful of one another. Above all to know that you did not do it by yourself there is a higher being and all those who have gone before you including family members who are routing for you. Wish you the best as you start your new journey.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Jaime – What an awesome way to come full circle. Your family and brother would be very proud. You are making a difference and it shows in your dedication to your community.

  3. Rocio Trujillo says:

    Hey, I just wanted to congradulate you for following your dream and your brother’s dream. He would be so proud of you. Que chido. Your story is very inspirational, I’m very glad that you are continuing with your education to help others get educated.

  4. Judi Sanders says:

    Chuy,

    It is awesome that you are sharing your story. This is your mission in life! :-)

    Judi

  5. Montes Ireland says:

    Jesus, cada vez I see you, I see your heart, your strength, your beauty. Thank you, brother, para cumplir tu promesa a tu hermanito… we are all blessed by it. – heather

  6. Juana Estrada says:

    hijole Jesus..thats awsome!…you make me proud!..keep up the good work homie! kudos to staying a beaver….cuidate—Juana

  7. Amy Crevola says:

    Oye Chuy, que precioso to see your story here. You are amazing! Adelante! -Amy

  8. Rene' (Hermiston) says:

    Great story Jesus! Very proud of you!! Keep up the good work…

  9. Maribel y Raul says:

    Congrats Jesus, Te apoyamos! Great to see you representing the Masters pool of talent from Htown!

  10. Javier says:

    ¡Felicidades! ¡Respeto y admiro tu legado, mas aun, tu futuro!

    Javier

  11. Lupe says:

    Jesus,
    Felicidades! Sigue adelante. Eres un orgullo y un buen ejemplo para todos. Dios te bendiga.

  12. Michelle says:

    So proud of you, Chuy!

    Love having you in class :)

  13. Jason says:

    Chuy, my brother. You are in inspiration to everyone!

  14. Liz Wilson says:

    What can I say…but I am so proud of you. We could not our my work without your work. You know what I’m sayin? Catching what I threw? I am sure we will be working together soon someday soon at PPS and in Oregon.

    Mucho respetuso!

    Liz

  15. Jesus I enjoy being a cohort with you! You have expanded my horizons even though we have far differing political views. That is another aspect of diversity we can celebrate! Continue fighting the good fight.

  16. Anna Heinrich says:

    How lucky we are to have you in the cohort with us! You are an inspiration. I love the “moral responsibility to assist others in getting there” quote.

  17. Megan Miller-Morgan says:

    You are an inspiring classmate and I am glad to know there are people like you making positive changes.

  18. Katie P. says:

    GOOD FOR YOU!

  19. Jesus, Congratulations from all your friends and supporters here at Blue Mountain Community College. You make us proud!
    Karen

  20. Valerie (Jefa!) F. says:

    Jesus, Karen just sent this link to me and I was so happy to read it.

    You are giving a lot back to your community through the wonderful things you’re doing. I look forward to continuing to hear about the projects and activities you’re involved with.

    You deserve every good thing – and I hope as they come to you that you can and will accept them as yours.

    With much honor and respect – Jefa

  21. Guy Post says:

    Jesus,

    Mi amigo!!!

    I was Jesus’ math instructor at BMCC. What a WONDERFUL young man. In meeting Jesus, I found a young man that would accomplish anything he put his mind to.

    When he shared with me that he was going to attend OSU (my alma mater; class of ’90 and ’96), I was so excited for him.

    Jesus,

    I have wondered about you quite a bit; expecially when I pull out that huge eraser you gave me that you bought to make all of those math corrections. Also, when I go golfing, I ALWAYS wear that OSU hat you gave me.

    Someone was asking me about it, and I shared where I got it.

    You are a wonderful testimony to overcoming adversity.

    I am continuously praying for you.

    Blessings on you, bro’!!!

    Guy Post

  22. Christina says:

    What a very moving story! Thank you for sharing!

  23. Jacob Boileau says:

    Hey,

    I remember you from Ethnic Studies (Latino/ and Chicano/a) last year. It is great that you are able to share your story with the University and everyone that sees this. You were a great influence on that class. Let me know how classes are going and what you are working on.

    Good Job!

    Jacob Boileau

  24. Dear Guy I have never forgot about you my friend and what you did for me. I have been asking about you for many years and no one seems to give me an answer Please contact me via email jaimedij@onid.orst.edu

  25. Dear Guy

    I have never forgot about you my friend and what you did for me. I have been asking about you for many years and no one seems to give me an answer Please contact me via email jaimedij@onid.orst.edu

  26. Dana says:

    Jesus,

    It is wonderful to reconnect with you since we first met years ago. I know it is for a reason that our professional lives have crossed paths again.

    I am so proud of you and all of your accomplishments! I know you are destined for even more greatness and I hope to be a part of it. See you soon!

  27. Kaci says:

    Without hearing your story…I already knew you were awesome. Now reading your story…it just means that much more. Thanks for being an outstanding teacher. Without a doubt you are impacting every person that gets the opportunity to meet you.

  28. Dr Leo Rasca-Hidalgo says:

    Jaime,

    Orale dude!

    You can do it…you are… you will be…. all for the next generation!

    There was another “Jaime” in La La land… He got the conguros into AP prep…to believe in themselves….. “Yep….. step by step…”

    Like you said carnal, “Education ……give [s] you a moral responsibility to assist others in getting there”

    Another heavy who saw alot of carnage in the early 1900′s as a young adult…. in his own way the “vato loco” said:
    “We become authentic persons when we give the GIFTgiven to us to another…”

    Now is the time!!!!!!!!

    And yes, Hang Out at Beaver Nation to the next level…. The Community College Leadership Program is worth it……
    I was given the GIFT that included out-of-sight mentores: Alex Sanchez, Warren Suzuki, George Copa, y la profesora Gonzalez….

    And this fat little man from Eastlos was the first to graduate fron CCLP from mestizo-ness….. others have come afterwards….Samano…. Oliveros…Valdez…

    Jaime, take up el fuego…. for the many Raza que estan en los colegios communitarios.

    And also Now…. everyday…. Envison, with the blessing of moral responsibility en to corazon…taking the GIFT, back home to the Bronze young Dama y Caballeros…..

    Y tu tambien: “Teach them well, and join us in the Struggle”

    Call me and set up a gig for my young adults in the Chicano/Latino courses at Chemeketa.

    dr leo rasca-hidalgo