"Hope: Why I refuse to give up" - Candace Valenzuela

Hope is something that drives people from all walks of life. In this feature piece I was working with Candace Valenzuela. As a member of the school board she knows what it means to have hope for the future. Working to ensure that the youth of our country have the best education system in place as possible.

Who are you?

My name is Candace Valenzuela. I'm a mother of almost two, a wife to only one, and a daughter of two Army veterans. I'm also a school board trustee with 25,000 kids in my charge, and I think about them all the time. I think about what it's like for them at home, what it's like for them at school, and how well they'll do if I work hard for them. I think about the fact that they'll never think of me at all, and I'm okay with that as long as they're healthy and employed some day. I also think about the people who care for them every day, not just the teachers, but everyone that makes up a school's ecosystem. I want them to feel as valuable as they are and not struggle to feed their families. 

What does hope mean to you?

My mother had a child once. Her middle name was Faith. Faith died after a month. My mother named me Candace Hope. My mom is a product of the U.S. military, so she's good at issuing commands, but not so much with the discussing deeper feelings. I'll never know what this meant to her, but to me it's felt like a statement of my existence. I deeply feel the world around me while still maintaining optimism that things could and should be better. To me, hope is simultaneously the act of suffering, waiting (especially if you're a Spanish speaker), and patiently bringing into being what needs to be. 

Why do you refuse to give up hope?

There is no peaceful existence without hope. Times are trying, and simply accepting the world as it is means that I'll accept that or worse for myself and future generations. I hold onto hope because I want my life to constitute the love I have for others, and I believe that acting on hope helps me to have a sense of purpose.

What is one piece of advice you would give to those that are struggling to hold on to their hope?

Look at those around you that embody love and the those internal aspects of yourself that make you feel best about yourself. Build your family and your community if you weren't immediately born into the right one. If you're a Christian, look to Jesus, and not the funhouse mirror version that is misquoted or distorted, but the one that was brave, loving, and real. All reasonable people have lapses in hope all the time, but being anchored in love and consistency of character will allow you to come back to it. If you're chemically predisposed against hope, medication is okay too. Just know that hope isn't maintained alone, but despair flourishes in darkness and isolation.