GAVIN NEWSOM APPOINTS DAYLE MCINTOSH CENTER’S ALAN CRUZ TO CALIFORNIA’S STATE INDEPENDENT LIVING COUNCIL
Anaheim, CA – (May 12, 2023) – California Dreamin’ isn’t just a song from 1963. For Alan Cruz (He/Him), who self-identifies ‘as a Mexican male who is blind’ California Dreamin’ is a non-wavering state of mind and being. Diagnosed with Retinoblastoma at age one and a half years of age, Cruz didn’t know exactly where his individual disability would take him as a child with the arduous trek of challenges faced head-on along his way into adulthood. But on May 2, 2023, Cruz’ mindset went from a California dream-to-unexpected reality when Governor Gavin Newsom officially announced Cruz as California’s State Independent Living Council. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2023/05/02/governor-newsom-announces-appointments-5-2-23/
“It’s both a personal and professional achievement for me,” shares Cruz, who overcame huge obstacles growing up with limited resources, a language barrier (as Spanish was his first language) and struggled to find community growing up as a person with disabilities through early stages in elementary school. Cruz, admits early school years were a tough time of evolving, working with a Braille writer where he questioned his future, carrying it around to navigate life and his dreams. Though, resource access seemed limited, he was grateful for supportive parents who didn’t believe in limitations.
“My parents told me – Yes, you have a disability, but your brain, hands and feet still work one hundred percent and will not impair you to do anything. From here my world opened up as I had a wake-up call to resources through technology, computers, gadgets and screen readers,” explains Cruz, who went through trials and tribulations, overcoming obstacles through education and even a job specializing in Braille, computers and software where his job contract wasn’t renewed.
Cruz is now a Youth Community Liaison at The Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled (DMC) in Orange County, which is celebrating forty-six years serving the disabilities and aging community as a 501 (c) (3) peer-based non-profit organization offering independent living rehabilitation programs, support and resources.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Alan since he started at our Center as a consumer of youth transition services in 2017.
Little did we know then that he would step into the role of a Youth Advisor, become a paid volunteer, and eventually an
employee on DMC’s team of staff. Alan’s story demonstrates the importance of having young people with disabilities at the table where important decisions are made. I am so incredibly proud of the leader he’s become today, and I know he will be a wonderful addition to the California State Independent Living Council!” exclaims Brittany Zazueta, who ushered in the New Year as Executive Director for the Dayle McIntosh Center.
Inspired daily by the youth market he serves, Cruz is grateful for his role at DMC, which wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t first been introduced to the Department of Rehab (DOR) services. This resource connection eventually led him to the organization creating access by, and for people with disabilities. It is here he gets the thrill of shaping new leaders for the future and introduce them to resources they didn’t even know were available.
“I get a charge when I learn how resources can change lives. When people share how they are now able to connect to their families through a screen reader on a computer or able to communicate through a video chat in a job or learn new skills – it’s exciting! This has been most important. Covid played a huge part in creating a greater need for social interaction, particularly for people with disabilities who feel alone and need mental and emotional support. This is where accessibility is necessary.”
Cruz elaborates, sharing that access, housing, resources and awareness are vital needs for people to raise their voices even louder, speaking up and sharing what they need and opportunity for even more change to occur. His new role on California’s State Independent Living Council is motivating him to bring about more awareness to the needs of the disability community, as well as marginalized communities for both youth and adults struggling to find what they need.
“I am going to be the voice of my community. My role now is to listen to consumers, my co-workers, and my community and be that liaison to help bring about change. There is still a lot of work to be done, and much to fight for – both big and small. But even the small things can bring big change – like access to a door at a restaurant or needing software for equal access. Speaking up always helps bring about what others are thinking but never use their voice for. We can take action with whatever it is we question,” explains Cruz.
As Alan Cruz takes on his brand new California Dreamin’ dream role, he hasn’t stopped dreaming. He has aspirations to continue his higher education, and continue making change to support his community through mentorship, sharing vital resources and maybe even step into more advocacy, using his voice to motivate and create even more progress within the disability community. The fire in his soul burns brightly as he remembers that his early childhood struggles don’t have to equal suffering when he sees the lessons he’s learned along the way.
“I have always told everyone in my life to never give up and never stop believing. Trust yourself and everything you do even when it is hard. It will take patience and maybe even lots of time. You may tumble, you may fall. But I continue to believe that if I keep getting up again eventually everything I do will pay off. My advice to everyone is to keep going, keep believing.”
If you’d like to donate to The Dayle McIntosh Center you can do so by clicking HERE.
For more information on DMC’s programs and services go to https://daylemc.org or call directly at 714-621-3300.
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