Alumni Spotlight – Diane Takvorian

April 12, 2017

Diane Takvorian was born in Pasadena California. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States after surviving the Armenian Holocaust by the Turkish in 1915. Diane expressed that learning about her grandparents experience gave her “an inherent understanding of the impacts of discrimination and bigotry,” despite the fact that she did not live the experience first-hand. This led her to have a major interest in getting involved in the civil rights movement.

Diane attended Pasadena City College and then transferred to SDSU. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and then earned her MSW from SDSU. Diane shares why she decided to change her major to social work after earning her BS:

“While earning my BS at SDSU I got involved in civil rights and the women’s movement. I worked with local organizations serving vulnerable communities and I decided that social work would be a better fit for me than seeking an advanced degree in Psychology. I really wanted to pursue a degree that reflected my social justice values and that would give me a broad set of skills to organize and advocate for justice. Social work gave me a foundation of values, knowledge and skills that have served me well for many years.”

While working at Community Congress of San Diego, Diane and her colleagues began to notice the “illegal dumping of toxics in poor communities of color and of the exposure of workers to harmful chemicals on the job.” This motivated them to form a volunteer group and found the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), where they focused in organizing events and advocating for those communities that are highly impacted by pollution. Now, Diane is the Executive Director of EHC, and is proud of all the success they have accomplished throughout the years. Diane expresses some of their successes:

“Our first policy effort was wildly successful – EHC authored the first Community Right to Know law in the country which was adopted by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.  The law gives everyone the right to know about toxic chemicals being emitted from industries in their community. It’s such a basic human right, but residents and workers had never been able to know what they were being exposed to and how it might harm them. The Right to Know law provided the foundation and framework for EHC’s efforts as an environmental justice organization. Environmental justice is defined as: Everyone has the right to live, work and play in a clean and safe environment. Unfortunately for many low income communities of color that is an unmet goal. For instance, in Barrio Logan, children suffer from 3 times the rate of asthma hospitalizations than the county average because of the significant air pollution. EHC is grounded in community empowerment and leadership development which ensures that residents “speak for themselves” – a key principle of the environmental justice movement.”

Diane is aware that their work is being challenged every day by those who do not seem to care if our most vulnerable communities are being affected by the illnesses that our polluted air and water bring. She recognizes that it may take a long time to bring social justice to all victims, but knows that one day it will happen because everyone that is involved in EHC is “courageous, passionate, smart and persistent;” making it the best team to work with and accomplish social justice for everyone.

Diane finishes by giving some advice to all social work students:

“Think expansively about your future and about the change you want to make in the world!  Social work gives you an enormous amount of skills and expertise that you can use in an endless number of settings.  We need social workers in all settings to instill social work values and culture.  From government to non-profits to corporations to educational settings to the movements for justice – social workers belong everywhere!”

Diane also expresses that self-care is extremely important in the social work field. For her, doing some yoga, outdoor activities (walking, hiking, gardening), and cooking her all-time specialty vegetarian soups showing her Armenian origin gives her the right amount of self-care to not overwork herself. She believes that there is always some type of self-care that fits each individual; they just need to find the right one that “renews and sustains them.”

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