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Women's History Month: The Importance of Storytelling

Women’s History Month – also known as March – is when we not only recognize and celebrate all women but acknowledge that there is still ongoing work to be done to move women’s rights forward around the world. 

From the attacks on transgender women to the continued demand for gender equality and equity, intersectionality plays a vital role in our stories and understanding what it means to work towards a better and just future for all women. For these reasons, visibility matters.

This year, the YMCA of San Francisco’s Women’s Leadership Network, would like to honor the women we work with, the women who participate in our programs, and the young women in our youth programs. In the theme of “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”, we will also be sharing stories all month long.

We interviewed Tiffany Andrade and Alexandra Macedo who are both a part of our Youth Development programs at YSF. These are their stories. -WLN

Who are you and what is your Y story (when you started, your branch, your department, etc.)?

My name is Tiffany Andrade and I am the site coordinator for Harvey Milk Elementary with the Mission Y. I offer my Y story to you in a very unique lens, as a mother of a YMCA student, and now very fortunately, as a YMCA employee.

If I may take you back to 2014 - I was a young mother, about 25 years old, newly on my own with a child about to start Kindergarten. He was enrolled at Hillcrest Elementary. However, when he started, I was very fearful because for those of you familiar with Hillcrest they are an early release school, and having worked later than pick-up time and [with] very little support, I wasn’t sure how I would manage. After a few weeks went by, I was approached by a YMCA staff member who at the time I had no idea was a staff person that was an entity outside of the district because of how welcoming and involved she was with every component of my child’s school day. She informed me of the YMCA and all the services they offered and helped to get my son enrolled. In [that] process, she went a step further and activated me as a parent in a way that was inspiring. I was now more involved in my own child’s school day. I was heading the PTA, working collaboratively with the YMCA and I [became] a real partner to the school and the things that were being offered to the youth. I could see the progress being made. My child was having fun, he was safe, he felt welcome and a real sense of community was there. For me, as a parent, I got to see that. I was comfortable going to work [because] that burden was lifted [and] the YMCA was that safety net for me. That was the best feeling I could have. My son is now in 8th grade and still is an active participant in YMCA programming. Fast forward to 2023, I am now an employee with the YMCA and have been officially for a little over a year now quickly moving up in positions and hoping to be around for some time to come.

How do you feel empowered in our organization and how does that uplift you to empower the young women in our programs and organization?

The YMCA has been a stronghold for me for years now, not only in my home life but also in my professional life. They have been a beacon of hope and resources that really are geared toward staff and participant success. They create a welcoming supportive culture that I strive to recreate for the youth I work with every day.

What is your name, pronouns and your role at the Y?

My name is Alexandra Macedo (she/her). My role is Head Program Leader at Wade Thomas Elementary School and I’ve been with the Y for 2 years. 

Can you tell me about a moment that “sparked” solidity in why you work for this organization?

The moment that struck me to solidify my role at the Y was my first year working at Wade Thomas. It was almost at the beginning of the pandemic, and I had the privilege to work with a pair of sisters that were in the program. It made me happy to be working with these sisters because they are Hispanic, and I also identify as Hispanic. Of the pair, the younger sister who was in kindergarten at the time spoke primarily Spanish but had a limited English vocabulary. She was working her way through school learning how to read and write English. When I would help her with her homework, she would remind me of myself when I was her age – struggling and giving up on my homework because I couldn’t understand. I would see her frustration when her teacher would have everyone in the class read a page of their book for the day, and when it came to her turn, she would have a lot of trouble reading it and would mumble her words. With school being online it created more stress on her, and she would lag with classwork. There would be piles of work in her class folder and assignments on Seesaw (an online platform) that were months overdue.

For that year, I would try to give them as much support as possible. When I would have the chance to speak with their mom, she would always tell me how grateful she was that someone would spend so much time helping them with their work, especially since she had little to no time to sit down with them at home because they had two younger siblings. These conversations with their mom would always hit home, because like them I had to navigate school as a Spanish speaker, and I knew how hard it was for myself and for my mom to help me with my homework.

When the year was over, the sisters were going to be switching schools so they wouldn’t be coming to the Y anymore. It was at that moment that I knew that there are many other kids in our programs that have very similar stories – where our program helps them grow socially, emotionally and many other ways. Being able to help other Y communities has also solidified that what I’m doing here is making a difference in someone’s life.

Who are the women in your life that inspire you?

Some of the women in my life that inspire me would have to be my mother, older sisters, someone I consider a mentor, Jeanie, and every woman in society that are trying to make this world a safer place for all women. These women inspire me because they all have a story to tell – whether it be a traumatic event to a happy event in their life. It makes them who they are today. Without the struggles that each one of them has faced, they’re still pushing through the world as if nothing can stop them from reaching their true potential. I am not here to tell their stories because I am in no position to do so, but I do know that without any of these women, I wouldn’t be able to have the courage to do anything in life. With their motivation and their love, anything is possible.