It’s kind of a long story…

My name is Eduardo Jesus Chaidez, and I was born and raised in Oakland, California. Although it is a city undergoing complex, and at times problematic, transitions like many others across the country, Oakland’s vibrant and diverse culture is as deeply rooted as its history of political struggle and mobilization in the face of marginalization. I can go on and on… I simply just love it here; it is my home… in part, this probably explains why I haven’t really left in 32 years. Strangely enough, my interest in the outdoors and conservation kind of happened because I dropped out of high school. I went for 4 years… but I was never a senior. I just stopped being interested in class and more interested in skipping class and hanging out in the art department all day drawing and making bad jokes, and I fell through the cracks of an already exhausted public school system. As one can imagine, as a drop out I had few opportunities until I enrolled in a job training program known back then as the East Bay Conservation Corps. I earned my High School Diploma while gaining skills in leadership, horticulture, flood control, fire suppression, and an appreciation for conservation, the environment and horticulture… but probably most important of all for me back then, I got to use chainsaws! 😀 This path eventually led me to work with the National Park Service in Yosemite on a trail crew where we lived and worked in remote backcountry locations maintaining and constructing trails. As a young adult from the ‘hood without any real ambition or confidence, with an unclear direction in life, I found myself in the middle of nowhere: literally and figuratively. I essentially went from the inner city and not seeing snow or camping until I was like 18 years old to living out of my tent deep in the Sierra Nevadas with a bunch of strangers from around the country for half the year doing some of the most grueling, labor intensive work there is. Being out of my comfort zone, away from my friends and family forced me to find myself and who I really am. It changed my life. After a few years of working for the National Park Service in Yosemite I came back to Oakland and worked a bunch of landscaping/tree pruning jobs and other random things. I felt like my life peaked and I was on the downhill slide. So I ended up enrolling at the local community college part time while working full time. Slowly that equation switched with the guidance and mentoring of some of my professors. I went to working part time to being a full time student. I became involved in starting a student transfer club and tutoring. I began finding other Latino students who were either lost taking random classes (like myself) or struggling with the transfer process and navigating the bureaucracy of it all. Some of us were first generation and some undocumented and many were the first in our families to attend college. By helping each other we built a community of peers who were focused on education and transferring. I ended up transferring to UC Berkeley: the place I used to go and pretend I was a student at when I used to cut class in high school, majoring in what I used to do instead of homework. Now, just a week removed from my graduation from UC Berkeley with a double major in Art Practice and Ethnic Studies I’m looking forward to beginning my LHIP internship at the: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Just across the bay from me-  I get to merge my 2 lives. I get to experience and share my love for the environment that I gained in Yosemite and the Latino community building and camaraderie I participated in at school.

In the fall I will begin grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to get an MA in Visual and Critical studies. check out my online art portfolio at: ejchaidez.wix.com/ejchaidez

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