Rita Naranjo grew up in Southern California. She was placed in foster care at the age of 4 and moved around a lot throughout her youth. At the age of 17, she became very active in advocacy in order to raise attention to the plight of foster youth. In the beginning she became a member of the California Youth Connection which had a profound impact on her healing and growth. She is grateful for the many opportunities to travel throughout the United State through her advocacy efforts. Rita learned that through the traumatic experience of losing her family, she was part of a large community of young people who were struggling. She realized that she could contribute something positive and meaningful to help others. This realization helped fuel the fire and motivated her to pursue a professional career that was able to combine her personal life experiences with her conscious pursuit of achieving higher education.
While earning her AA from Mira Costa College, Rita worked for Child Welfare as a youth advocate, and at Mira Costa College in outreach and diversity relations, where she connected vulnerable communities such as Juvenile Hall and group homes with resources and access to higher education. Upon completing her Associates degree from Mira Costa College, she transferred to SDSU and commuted from Oceanside by bus and train. Rita appreciated being able to use her time wisely while at times catching the sunrise on her way to campus or the sunsets on her way home. Rita earned her BSW with a minor in anthropology, and went on to earn her Masters in Sociological Practice from CSU San Marcos. While earning her Masters, she started her own business as a consulting expert. She does contract work through grants in school districts and runs classes focusing on creative life skills. She enjoys the flexibility in scheduling as it allows her to stay connected to the community while raising her children.
Currently, Rita works as a trainer for the Academy for Professional Excellence, a project of the School of Social Work at SDSU. Rita enjoys this role as it allows her to tell her story in a historic and sociopolitical context by using research, knowledge and experience to bring her story to life. She says that training for the Academy has been amazing and she loves developing curriculum and bringing it to life in the classroom. Rita wants people to know that she is more than her struggle but recognizes that experience serves as a tool to connect and help others. Her future goals include becoming a professor. She aspires to teach at SDSU. She feels that this role would allow her to be effective and have the impact that she dreams about while continuing to be a part of the community. She advises students to remember that everyone has faced struggles and success at different levels, and that we are all connected. We can make a difference by sharing who we are and by listening to and learning from others. Rita emphasizes that we do not need to seek to be better than others, we need to strive to be better for the community. In fighting to be better for the greater good, we are able to be important elements of life growth and make a positive impact in compassionate honoring ways.
Like this article?
Written by: Kelly Reilly