Meet one of PRO’s youth engagement coordinators Brian Tolentino.
Brian has worked with PRO for one year and leads mentoring programs at Encina High School, San Juan High School and Florin High School. There he helps mentor and train high school students that act as mentors to youth at neighboring elementary schools.
“I love working with youth because I love learning about the different backgrounds that all of my students come from. Some are first-generation students, some have families that have been here since the birth of this nation, some come from humbling backgrounds, and everything else in between. It’s their stories and how they progress throughout my time with them that fascinate me the most.”
Brian grew up in Suisun City with his mom and two brothers. His father lived in Long Beach and Brian would go and visit occasionally.
“He didn’t live in the same house as us. My mom and my dad weren’t divorced but for some reason my dad wanted to love in Long Beach.”
Though his relationship with his dad was strained he felt lucky that his father was still a part of his life. His older brothers father died when they were young boys and they didn’t get the chance to get to know their father like Brian did.
The person that Brian felt most supported by was his mother. Seeing the adversity, she faced and the compassion she provided other people stuck with him.
“I knew that mom was always there. So I was always really close with my mom growing up. She’s the strongest person I know.”
When Brian was in high school his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Though his mom and dad had a strained relationship and hadn’t lived together for over a decade his mother took him in and took care of him until the end of his life.
“That’s the type of love my mom gives. She always gives a lot to the people that she cares about. Even though they almost got divorced she took care of him and sat with him every day whenever she could.”
Looking back his father’s death he has regrets on not taking advantage of their time together.
“I really regret not talking to my dad about this stuff. Getting to know who he was… Learn all about my dad and our history. I wish I knew all of that.”
Brian’s strength continued to come through his mother who he credits for being incredibly strong and resilient.
“I have my struggles but I always think that there’s someone out there worse off than me. Not saying that I’m invalidating my struggles but, but I feel like I have lot of resiliency built up in me that I don’t really think about.”
Brian’s past has helped him become a compassionate and energetic Youth Engagement Coordinator.
“It really helps me be self-aware and practice being empathetic with my students. Some students have similar backgrounds with me and while many do not, it allows me to look for more ways to connect with my students than just our upbringings. I’m very open with my students about my past, so I try to find ways to link similarities and let them know that there’s always someone that they can talk to.”