Role Models (incomplete)

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)

Social activism and working towards social change are often not seen in a good light. Television, for example, often portrays activists as flaky and fuzzy-headed "do-gooders." A hearty laugh track often accompanies the utterances of the stereotyped activist. Cool people don't think about other levels of social realities -- they're too busy being cool...

Newsmakers are generally rich, criminal, famous, brutal, or ....


Images and stereotyping in the media, e.g.


This article provided the inspiration for adding this pattern. In this article the value of a role model is clearly shown.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Thursday, August 14, 2003

Men leave dark days behind
Redeemed and recovered, two friends pursue their next goal: An education


"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

-- Epitaph on Jackie Robinson's gravestone

They were men in trouble. A Vietnam War washout and a Hawaiian gangster.

They didn't know each other until a few years ago, but their stories run along oddly parallel tracks: lives consumed by drugs and booze and crime; families ripped apart by violence.

Both wound up being homeless.

But this is a story of salvation.

Robert Cleveland and the Mariner Moose
Zoom Mike Urban / P-I

Jackie Robinson Scholarship winner Robert Cleveland reacts as the Mariner Moose makes off with Cleveland's oversized check for $3,000 during pregame ceremonies at Safeco Field honoring the award winners. Cleveland's friend, Paul dela Cuesta, also was honored last night.

Two friends, Robert Cleveland and Paul dela Cuesta, are going to college.

Yesterday, they stood at home plate at Safeco Field, introduced as recipients of Jackie Robinson scholarships -- money that will pay for a year of tuition at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Thousands of fans cheered, and Cleveland and dela Cuesta basked in the spotlight, smiling broadly.

The scholarships, started by an Evergreen faculty member in 1988, are offered each year to a select few students of color who demonstrate not only academic excellence, but, like baseball legend Robinson, are also committed to community involvement and social justice.

Dela Cuesta, 45, who is of Filipino and Portuguese descent, and Cleveland, a 50-year-old Native American, are quick to humble themselves before the mystery of how and why their lives turned from the streets to the classroom.

"I got the chance and want to give that to others," dela Cuesta says. "That's what keeps me going. If I didn't have this chance, I don't know where I'd be."

Cleveland describes himself as "full of gratitude."

"I had already made up my mind that I was never going to get an education and die on the street," he says.

Flash back four years to when the men first met -- at New Vision, a refuge for the down-and-out on Capitol Hill.

The live-in drug and alcohol recovery program run by Union Gospel Mission opened its doors about 15 years ago. Since then, nearly 500 men have received intensive counseling with a strong Christian component.

Most men stay for nine months of treatment; some remain for up to six months. Others can linger longer if they have specific goals to accomplish.
Robert Cleveland at New Vision
Zoom Mike Urban / P-I
Robert Cleveland, right, overcame years of alcohol and drug abuse by turning to New Vision, a refuge for the down-and-out on Capitol Hill. Cleveland, 50, and his friend, Paul dela Cuesta, 45, plan to enroll at The Evergreen State College in the fall.

Cleveland stayed for 3 1/2 years.

"His education became real important to him, so we wanted him to be able to complete that," said New Vision director Frederic Robinson.

Cleveland grew up in Palmdale, Calif., where "you either worked for the police department or you were in prison," he says.

"None of my family worked for the police."

He enlisted in the Army in 1971 and wound up being sent to Vietnam as a door gunner on a helicopter. He'll never forget that first day in the skies on patrol. He was nearly killed twice before lunch, he says.

Cleveland turned to drugs and got careless, peddling heroin to an undercover agent. In February 1972, he was booted out of the military.

Back home, his life only got worse. He watched in horror as his father was shot to death inside his home during a drunken dispute. The shooter was his father's girlfriend.

"I gave up living like a normal person and started living a crazy, desperate life," Cleveland says.

He fell deeper into addiction. One day, he woke up in a hospital. He had been in a drug-induced coma.

Over the years, he racked up 11 DUIs, and now considers it something of a miracle that he never hurt anyone. He also became a brawler. His rap sheet includes five assaults on California police officers.

Cleveland's redemption began when he followed one of his brothers, also an addict, to New Vision.

During the next three years, Cleveland recovered his health and cleared his head. He realized he needed an education.

At 48, he enrolled at Seattle Central Community College intent on re-making his life.

"My first day of school, I was afraid," he recalls. "Just like a kindergartner."

He wound up missing only one day of school. Last spring, he earned his associate in arts degree in social human services.

Thanks to his new scholarship, Cleveland is planning to enroll at Evergreen this fall, following his role model, dela Cuesta.

The fact that dela Cuesta is still alive, let alone pursuing a college education, would stun a lot of people back home in Oahu, Hawaii.

His hard road began at age 9, when he saw his mother get gunned down in their home. The killing sent him into a string of foster homes. As a young man, he lived on the beach, using cocaine and plotting crimes.

He became a gangster, he says.

The death of his fiance to thyroid cancer jolted him into trying to leave the "madness" behind. He moved to the mainland in 1996, but he couldn't shake his drug habit.

A Seattle pastor persuaded him to try the New Vision program. He relapsed after his first treatment, but says he's been clean since re-entering the program in November 1999.

Surprising himself with his success, dela Cuesta enrolled at Seattle Central and earned an associate in arts degree in information technology.

Relying on a patchwork of student aid, he began studying last year at Evergreen, where he's seeking a bachelor's in social services. He wants to "help youths -- kids in my predicament -- to show them there is a way out."

Cleveland and dela Cuesta single out one New Vision counselor -- Deryl Davis-Bell -- for inspiring them to go to college.

Davis-Bell knew firsthand what it would take for them to get an education. He now works as an outreach worker for Seattle Vision Youth.

He made it from Seattle Central to the University of Washington and earned a master's in social work, but that success came only after he bottomed out in 1990, arrested on a drug charge. He now encourages troubled men to seek an education and set goals, if only to help them overcome their shame.

"To me, it's always looking forward and realizing that my life has meaning," he says. "My life is meant to affect others in a positive way. If I only focus on my own troubles, then I'm not looking a the whole picture."

Cleveland and dela Cuestra feel a need to give something back. Dela Cuesta was active in student government at Seattle Central, and both have served as volunteer social workers and mentors.

They're the latest sources of inspiration for New Vision, says Robinson, the director.

"I'll forever hold these guys up ... that this is what you can accomplish."


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