The Journey Together

We Don’t Believe in “Bad Kids”

Ian North

We Don’t Believe in “Bad Kids”

“There are no good or bad kids at Presencia. We’re all doing our best.” On Tuesday, Katie said those words to a student who struggles with spelling, and I’ve been thinking about them since. She and our other program mentors all grew up in this neighborhood, and they know how difficult it can be for our students to believe they are worthy of love no matter how they perform. From early childhood, the world places adult concerns on the children of immigrants. I’ve watched little kids speak to police officers, school administrators, and judges on their parents’ behalf. They care for...

Read more →


Processing Trauma in Community

Ian North

Processing Trauma in Community

I was on my way to the Presencia apartment to prepare the space for our staff and students when I saw this message from Katie:  “hey guys we’re on a level 3 lockdown due to a shooting. we’ve received emails that we won’t be released until further notice. I’m not sure if we’ll be arriving at Presencia on time.” Over the next hour, we read and responded to messages and decided what to do about our program for the afternoon. We called friends, checked news networks, and tried to piece together what was going on. The only news story on...

Read more →


My Presencia Story

Ian North

My Presencia Story

My name is Wanda Islas, and I manage our programs at Presencia. I’m 22 years old, and I have a baby boy who just turned two. Growing up, I was the oldest of four sisters living with a single mom. My family and I moved a lot. It was difficult because schools taught the same things but at different paces. I remember having to move schools as I was learning multiplication. At the new school they had already started division. This caused a lot of struggles, but Ruthie and Ian came knocking on my door once to let me know...

Read more →


Your Health Matters to Our Work!

Ian North

Your Health Matters to Our Work!

Ruthie and I used to push through cycles of despair, exhaustion, cynicism, and contempt to try to meet needs in our community. When we began training and hiring our young neighbors to help us, they took up this heavy weight with us.  Last year, we made a definitive change in how we think about our work that has freed all of us to enjoy our work, love each other well, and get healthy. We turned our focus from meeting needs to building healthy relationships. We dedicated time to emotional and spiritual well-being. We trained our staff on interpersonal communication. Our...

Read more →


What Do We Do with Our Differences?

Ian North

What Do We Do with Our Differences?

A Cuban, Mexican, Irish, and Australian person walked into an Indian restaurant. It sounds like the setup for a joke, but this was just our executive staff lunch on Wednesday. Kimberly, Wanda, Ruthie, and I each come from a radically different background, and we spend time together working on our relationships so that we can better love our neighbors.  This week, we talked about the challenge of bringing people from different groups together, and how we preserve each person’s dignity. It’s complicated work, and we each make mistakes along the way, but here’s how we work to honor and love...

Read more →