To me ODAT is a program where I feel I can help people and make an impact in some way. I honestly love helping people. It makes my heart happy knowing I made somebody happy. I also love listening and seeing other people’s perspectives on things. ODAT has helped me be more open in speaking out about what I think or feel. I now feel that it IS okay to say what you think or feel even if everyone doesn’t agree or it’s not correct. ODAT is important to exist because it is honestly such a great program. I love how we go around do different events to help out communities or people in need. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something like this and I’m glad I found the perfect program. Also everyone I’ve met so far, all the staff members are knowledgeable and I’ve learned so much. They’re amazing, kind-hearted people that are giving back and it’s awesome! The thing I love the most about ODAT is going on the field trips, especially Dia de los Niños. I absolutely loved seeing all the kids with big smiles on their faces. It made me happy seeing them happy. My favorite thing is knowing and seeing that what you do makes an impact, whether little or big, on someone’s life.
— Crystal Ceja | Tracy, CA | 2016 ODAT Graduate

To me ODAT means a lot. It means I can be honest, open up to people, to be able to share my feeling and opinions without been judged. ODAT has become a family. I’ve been in it since my freshman year, I loved it I came my sophomore year, now I’m in Junior year and I’m so excited to still be a part of ODAT once more. The field trips are super fun. I gain knowledge. I meet new amazing people, and I get to know different perspectives. ODAT has affected me on being more social. I’m not scared to talk to people anymore, I’m comfortable to share anything on my mind. It is important for ODAT to exist because it really helps young people with their problems, it gives you a hand, and ODAT helps you get out of the box. ODAT makes you happy! What I like most about ODAT is that I can be my own person, we all express what we feel that you’re so comfortable with life. It makes you realize there is more to life. I like that it makes me happy, I can share with my friends and have amazing times and create a bigger bond.
— Luzy Puentes | Tracy, CA | 2015 ODAT Graduate

ODAT means a safe haven, empowerment, and most importantly family. I have met so many wonderful people through this program that have helped me grow into who I am today. Before entering this program I had gone through a life altering event where I was lost and wasn’t going down the right path. In saying that, I wasn’t doing the best in school, my attitude was very rude, defensive, and I was a pretty reserved individual. As I went through the program, it gave me the opportunity to have a voice. This program has helped me become a more open minded person, overcome personal obstacles, and made me a leader within my community and home. One Day At a Time is extremely important to exist due to the impact I have personally seen in myself and other outstanding individuals I have met through the program. This program isn’t for everybody, but those who go through the program learn life skills they wouldn’t learn anywhere else.
— Andrea Valdez | Tracy, CA | 2014 ODAT Graduate

ODAT to me means an opportunity, either to open your mind and think outside of the box or to have a second chance where people will trust you and respect you no matter what has happened outside of the organization. Everyone is equal and has a voice to speak their minds and talk about their culture, experiences, and beliefs. ODAT has affected me tremendously. They have given me the opportunity to reach goals I had given up on. They never gave up on me and pushed me to strive for greatness instead of settling. They made me think outside of my little bubble that I had in my mind and see the bigger picture, and understand that there are things happening that are bigger than just myself. They taught me to give back to the community and return the kindness. One Day At a Time gave me the knowledge I hungered for.

A quote I have always loved goes, “History repeats itself, opportunities don’t.” This relates to ODAT because I come from a family involved in gangs, and history repeated itself in the way of me being involved in gangs just like my parents, but ODAT gave me the opportunity to move passed that and stay in school. Even after I graduated; I kept coming to ODAT and it gave me the opportunity in the form of a volunteering position at The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland. Who would have thought me, a Mexican - American from California who is only the second person in my family with a high school diploma would be working across the world in another country!

ODAT is an opportunity for the youth to express themselves in a safe environment and talk to others from different ethnic groups and cultures. It is a safe and a much respected place by all who attend whether it be youth with troubled pasts or straight A students. The part I love most about ODAT is the history behind the organization and the respect people have for it. They acknowledge what has happened in the past and still show you the same respect as everyone else, they are not there to be your teacher, they are not there to hold your hand and tell you everything will be okay. They are there to tell it to you straight. They’re there to listen to those who feel silenced. They are there to show you a path you may not have seen on your own. They are the ones who actually ask the youth what they want, and give those same youth the opportunities to reach those goals.
— Alex Martin Del Campo | Tracy, CA | 2013 ODAT Graduate

ODAT is more than a group of kids who get together and just talk about any and everything. ODAT to me is something that has switched around and improved my views on so many different aspects of life. I think differently, see things differently, and have a better attitude that keeps me well grounded. ODAT doesn’t just key in on changing you, although that usually is the case and it’s always for the better.

ODAT is about understanding and motivation for us young adults and teens. ODAT even has a strong involvement in multiple communities, it’s not just about the people who are in it, but ODAT reaches out to others. I can go on all day about ODAT because it works in so many different ways. I love ODAT and everything about it.
— Marcell Zanders | Oakley, CA | 2010 ODAT Graduate

Having grown up involved in gang activity, all my adventures revolved around negative things. After being expelled from school for the second time, I felt like a failure and as if the whole world were coming down on me. ODAT was my getaway place that provided me with comfort. When I was in group meetings and on field trips, all my troubles didn’t matter. Johnny Rodriguez has an energy that fills a whole room with positive vibes. It was nice to do volunteer work, since I felt like I was making a change by doing something positive.

ODAT was a stepping stone in my life, and I owe a lot to this program. If it weren’t for this, I do not know where I would be right now, or if I would even be here at all. At the age of twenty one, I recently graduated and received my Associates’ degree, and am continuing my education. As of now, I currently attend California State University, East Bay in Hayward, and I’m seeking to attain a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. I am working hard to improve my life mentally, spiritually, and physically. I empower my brain with as much knowledge as I can, take care of my health, respect my body, attend church, and volunteer in local youth groups.
— Eduardo Cardona | Oakley, CA | 2010 ODAT Graduate

I do not view ODAT as a group, I see ODAT as a familia, a familia in which we help each other with our daily struggles. We are a familia that focuses on the positives in life, and what can be done to improve ourselves as well as our environment. I also see this familia as a support group, here you have people who are real and who will stick by your side when it is needed most. The closest friends I have are people who I met through ODAT and people who went through the program with me.

Since I made the decision to be a part of this familia my life has changed completely. I was the type of person that felt I needed to close myself off from showing any emotion in order to feel protected; with help of many people from ODAT, I overcame that stage in my life and I can let myself appreciate the highs and lows in life. I also struggled with believing in myself and thanks to this familia that was constantly pushing me to challenge myself and accept that; I AM CAPABLE OF DOING MORE THAN I EVER THOUGHT. I honestly believe that if I would have never been pushed I would have never completed the art piece I donated to the program. I needed esa mano firme to be able to accomplish everything I have accomplished in my short life.
— Stephanie Venegas | Antioch, CA | 2010 ODAT Graduate

What is a family? A family is unity among loved ones and sharing compassion with one another and letting them know that if they ever needed something, that we would be there for them. Here at ODAT (One Day At a Time), we show that type of love. A love unbearable. To others and me; we call it our second family that will never let you down no matter what; who will always be there through thick or thin. My name is Victor Alexander Garcia Compean. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but lived my worst time in Richmond, California. I was a kid struggling to find my inner self. A kid who was confused and angry at how his life was going for him. Always on guard for the fear of being shot or jumped. I was keeping a G.P.A of a 1.5 and lower, started to do drugs at a young age, and did not stop and think that what I was doing to my body was nothing but hurting it. I was going down the wrong road and I didn’t know how to get to on the right path, until my sister introduced me to Johnny Rodriquez, founder of ODAT.

He told me that this group would do me good, but I didn’t take it into consideration because I thought it was going to be another one of those “help yourself, but don’t really care about you” groups. I was proven wrong because when I went everybody was respectful, nice, and friendly. Giving a stranger, like myself a hug saying, “You’re not alone.” Until this day I don’t regret going. Nobody has the power to change you, only you have power and will to change. I’ve learned that at ODAT and much more because that’s what ODAT is about, to bring the inner self out so you can see what you need to change and introduce you to better pathways for your future. I thank not only Johnny Rodriguez, but the family of ODAT for helping me find my Tonalli (Aztec for inner self).

I am proud to say that I have a G.P.A of a 3.2 and have successfully found who I really am. My plans for the near future are to graduate college and go to medical school to become a pediatrician. If I, Victor Alexander Garcia Compean, was able to change, I know many others like me are able to do the same.

— Victor Garcia | Antioch, CA | 2009 ODAT Graduate

My name is Andreina Bojorquez. I am 18 years old I was born in Martinez, CA and raised in Pittsburg, CA... I met Johnny at Hillview Junior High School, since then I started the program that changed my future, One Day At a Time. There are no words to explain the ways the program led me to success. Also, making me the leader of my future. After the months in the program my life and my parents’ life changed dramatically for the reason that, before starting the program and meeting Johnny; my life and my parents life was the worst we lived because I would get suspended, was in fights, involved with gangs, and put my parents through situations they did not deserve. My parents lived through bad moments I put them through and now give my parents the utmost respect and the program because they were the ones that took the journey to lead me to success. One Day At a Time changed my life.

There are no words that can explain the gratitude I have towards the program because it led me to the path me and my parents always wanted. The program not only has helped me, but many other teens because I’ve seen it and lived it. Those that got the chance to go through and experience the moments of being a part of a successful program are now in the lead of being successful. After the program I had a fresh mind and set goals for the future. I finished high school, I am in college in the process of receiving my Associates Degree and then transferring to a university to receive my Bachelors…One Day At a Time, in my point of view will make teens become more successful and secure of themselves because with the help of the program, lives have changed. The words I am saying are not a lie because I am one of those many teens that’s life changed with the support of One Day At a Time.
— Andreina Bojorquez | Pittsburg, CA | 2004 ODAT Graduate

Maria Rafael .png
When I was first asked to join ODAT, I didn’t take it seriously at all. At that time, I wasn’t willing or wanting to change my attitude or ways. I was angry at the world, and chose to affiliate with people that were angry at the world like I was. I made poor choices, and my poor choices put strain on my family. I was failing in school, and didn’t attend half the time. I began to regularly shoplift and get into trouble with the law. I had started to drink my problems away and had little to no self-esteem or self-worth. I really didn’t care back then.

The One Day At a Time program showed me that life was full of endless possibilities. One of the most memorable experiences I had with the group was a visit to Tracy State Prison. That day was a reality check for me. The trip made me really appreciate life, and I knew I needed to make better choices in order to continue to keep my freedom. It was Johnny Rodriguez and his mentors that stressed the importance of a good attitude in life regardless of what I had been through. It was through this program I started to get back my faith. Over time my grades improved, I sought more positive people to hang around, and had the courage to say goodbye to the friends that weren’t good influences.

I graduated high school with honors, and fulfilled general education requirements at Los Medanos College. I married a man whom like myself has had the courage to change and seek a better life. I also have 2 children now. Currently, I am pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in holistic health at the Global College of Natural Medicine in Santa Cruz. My goal is to open my own consultancy practice one day. While I put myself through school, I work as a front desk dental receptionist. From this youth program, I have learned that life will always have its ups and downs, but we are all responsible for the way we react and for the choices we make. No matter how bad the situation – it shall pass, and a good attitude gets us where we need to be in life to enjoy it.
— Maria Rafael | Brentwood, CA | 1998 ODAT Graduate

Griselda Martinez .jpg
When Johnny originally asked me to write about what ODAT means to me, it made me remember what I was like when I first joined the program. Like many other teenagers living in a “less than perfect” neighborhood, I found myself being misguided by environmental factors that were beyond my control. At that time in my life I needed someone to guide me in the right direction. ODAT helped rear me in the right direction by teaching me lessons that would help me be a better and more productive individual. Lessons such as the importance of education and doing well in school so that I could become a role model for not just my younger sisters, but also for other young Latinos. Through this program, I was integrated into other organizations such as the Future Leaders of America (FLA) where I learned leadership skills that helped take my education to a higher level, and therefore, a chance for a better life.

Today, I hold a B.S. in Biochemistry and have a blossoming profession. In my young career, I have had the opportunity to work for multi million-dollar companies in research and development, and now have a chance to further my knowledge as an analytical chemist. I am very grateful for the lessons I have learned from this program, and I am very happy to convey the experience I have had with One Day At a Time.
— Griselda Martinez | Pittsburg, CA | 1997 ODAT Graduate