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SDHC Achievement Academy Graduate Working to Become a Doctor


Diego and his family are bracing for a white winter on the East Coast, but the future looks sunny and bright for the former San Diegan and his family.

A former recipient of federal rental assistance from the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), Diego works today as a researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. His goal is to become a doctor.

“I was able to go to school and did not have to drop out in order to support my family,” Diego said.

When he was attending UC San Diego, his wife, Ana, had just given birth to their eldest daughter, who is now 6 years old. They have three children, two girls and a boy.

“I was receiving a stipend from the university and that was our only income. My wife had already finished schooling and was now a stay-at-home mom. You can imagine the struggle. It was very hard at the time to make ends meet,” Diego said.

For nearly three years, Diego and his family received federal rental assistance from SDHC.

He also participated in the programs at the SDHC Achievement Academy, a state-of-the-art learning and resource center and computer lab at SDHC headquarters in Downtown San Diego.

The SDHC Achievement Academy provides programs that emphasize career planning, job skills and personal financial education. The programs are provided at no cost to federal rental assistance participants and public housing residents.

Diego said the support and encouragement he received from the SDHC Achievement Academy staff member, known as a Work Readiness Specialist, who assisted him was invaluable to his family’s success.

The Work Readiness Specialist helped Diego know about all of the programs that could help him and his family.

Diego was able to get help to pay for his textbooks through the SDHC Achievement Academy’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

He was also among those who benefited from the Financial Opportunity Center (FOC). This program provided SDHC Achievement Academy participants with employment services, financial education, and benefits screening.

FOC, which drew to a close in January 2016, was funded by a five-year, $665,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

An FOC lesson about creating a budget gave Diego and his wife a valuable tool that they use to this day.

“It was not something that we had done before, and it has always been very helpful, since we continue to keep a close eye on how we budget,” Diego said.

The budgeting will come in handy as Diego and Ana pursue their dream of homeownership.

For now, they’re renting a home in Baltimore, where he and his family moved in 2014, after Diego earned a doctorate degree in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego.

The 38-year-old researcher is part of a research team that’s working on finding a cure for a disease that affects the intestines of premature babies.

He hopes the research work he’s doing will better his chances to be accepted into a medical residency program.

“We’re very happy,” Diego said. “Obviously, it would be very nice to go back to California, but we’re enjoying our life here in Maryland.”

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