Latinx Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and honor the rich tapestry of Latinx, Hispanic, and Latinx-identified communities worldwide, while also recognizing the invaluable contributions of Latinx Americans to the United States.
In the spirit of this year's Latinx Heritage Month, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties (PPOSBC) proudly spotlights three extraordinary employees whose stories resonate deeply with our organization's core values. Collectively, these three dedicated individuals have accumulated an impressive 76 years of experience working at Planned Parenthood in various capacities. What's truly heartwarming is that they've been lifelong friends, united by their shared journey. Let's dive into the inspiring stories of Eileen Acosta, Case Manager with 21 years of service, Veronica Ramirez, Case Manager with 28 years of service, and Silvia Ramirez, Training Manager with 27 years of service, to discover how their experiences, roles, and heritage have shaped their remarkable lives.
Building Lifelong Bonds
Eileen: My passion for women's health and sex education drove me to pursue a career at Planned Parenthood. After completing my Medical Assistant externship in 1997, I knew this was the path I wanted to follow. I initially worked at Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles before transferring to PPOSBC, where I began working at the Anaheim Health Center and crossed paths with Silvia. Our centers were much smaller back then. Silvia handled the back office, we had just one person in the front office, along with a Manager, Assistant Manager, and two clinicians. It was a different time.
Silvia: Veronica's parents and mine both worked for the Irvine Company, which brought our families to Orange County. We grew up as neighbors in Irvine and have known each other since birth, even though we're not related despite sharing the same last name, Ramirez. Back then, it was a tight-knit community surrounded by orange groves and agriculture. The landscape has transformed dramatically since then.
Inspiration Behind their Careers
Eileen: Growing up, I noticed that many girls I knew lacked adequate sex education, some even failed to finish high school, and were unaware of their access to birth control, STI testing and treatment, and other essential reproductive services. Witnessing the consequences, I wanted to empower them with knowledge and options. Educating and supporting others in this area became my calling.
Veronica: I first learned about Planned Parenthood in high school when a health educator visited my class. From that moment, I knew I wanted to educate people too. After completing my Medical Assistant externship, I eagerly applied to PPOSBC because it was what I genuinely wanted to do, and I've been here ever since.
Silvia: I actually followed Veronica here. I admired Veronica and her sister greatly while growing up. Veronica encouraged me to attend Medical Assistant school. After completing the program, I worked at another medical office, but Veronica, who was already at PPOSBC, encouraged me to apply. I landed the job and started working at a small health center in La Habra. It was a small center that looked like a house, but I loved it and was incredibly proud to work for PPOSBC. The experience was inspiring; I was learning and empowering patients. It felt fantastic.
Most Exciting Aspects of their Jobs
Eileen: Patient care has always been my driving force. Knowing that I'm making a difference, whether it's educating about birth control, conducting tests, or providing support, I really enjoy it!
Veronica: Throughout my journey at Planned Parenthood, I've had the privilege to work in various departments – health centers, health education, and now case management. Even in my current role, I maintain that personal touch by speaking with patients daily, offering information, education, and reassurance. After all these years, I'm still here because I want to be, and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon.
Silvia: I'm passionate about training. I enjoy the opportunity to engage with new staff members, guiding them into the agency. Some come with knowledge of Planned Parenthood, while others don’t. It's exciting to introduce them to PPOSBC, sharing all the remarkable work we do and the incredible experiences they'll encounter.
Influence of Heritage on Their Lives
Eileen: Our heritage instills us with values, shaping our personalities, faith, language, and our identity. It encompasses everything about who we are.
Veronica: I couldn't agree more.
Silvia: I'm deeply grateful for my heritage. My parents instilled in me the value of hard work, and their example has played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today. Growing up in Orange County and witnessing their journey, I draw strength from their experiences. Working at PPOSBC has also contributed significantly to my strength, independence, and confidence.
Connecting with the Communities We Serve
Eileen: Being able to speak Spanish with our patients allows them to relate more easily. It facilitates education at a level where they fully understand, creating a sense of comfort.
Veronica: Speaking Spanish to our Spanish-speaking patients puts them at ease. It offers them comfort in knowing they can communicate their needs and concerns accurately. We want them to experience the same respect and ease as English-speaking patients when discussing questions or concerns.
Silvia: In the Latinx community, topics like birth control, sex education, and women's health aren't always openly discussed. When I'd encounter scared or nervous patients who didn't fully grasp what was happening, I'd step in, speaking their language to put them at ease. Our goal is to ensure every patient feels heard and receives the services they deserve. I often thought, 'Imagine if this were my mom. How would I want her to be cared for?'
Evolution of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Efforts
Eileen: The presence of DEIB efforts is more pronounced now. The education and training we receive are tremendously positive for both the agency and us individually. It fosters open-mindedness and strengthens our ability to connect with each other, ultimately enhancing our service to patients and communities.
Veronica: We are continuously evolving, which is a great thing. It's crucial that we keep educating ourselves, our children, and our communities.
Silvia: In the past, we didn't have robust DEIB initiatives. Today, we have training programs that encourage open conversations, where it's okay to ask questions, express uncertainties, and explore deeper understanding of ourselves and others.
Eileen: For my family, it's all about being together. We make a point to be together for every holiday, birthday, even every Sunday.
Veronica: While we used to travel to Ensenada every Christmas to celebrate with extended family when we were younger, our growing families have led to the creation of new traditions. However, the core tradition of family togetherness remains. We're always there for one another. A newer tradition we've adopted is gifting lottery scratchers as prizes at family events because they remind us of my dad, making it a fun and special addition to our gatherings.
Silvia: Our family has a cherished tradition of making fresh 'tortillas de harina' (flour tortillas). My mom continues to make them every day, and it's a deeply meaningful tradition that unites our family.
Latinx Heritage Month
Eileen, Veronica & Silvia: Latinx Heritage Month is a wonderful opportunity to share our culture. We love to learn about other traditions and understand the diverse cultures, flavors, and traditions that make up the Latinx heritage. Embracing these unique experiences and learning about one another's backgrounds encourages open-mindedness and compassion. It's a time when people can come together, celebrate diversity, and collectively learn from one another's journeys.
In the genuine spirit of Planned Parenthood, Eileen, Veronica, and Silvia draw their strength and purpose from their values of friendship, dedication, and the positive impact they bring to their work. Their diverse backgrounds serve as a reminder of the influence of shared experiences and the unbreakable bonds that connect us all. As we observe Latinx Heritage Month, their stories inspire us to embrace diversity wholeheartedly, recognizing that by learning from one another's unique journeys, we encourage compassion, broaden our horizons, and build a deeper sense of unity.