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Patricia Cortez

"My grandma taught me that you're put in this world to serve," says Patricia Cortez, who works half-time as a therapist at the Center for Family Development so that she can devote 40 hours to volunteer activity. Displaced by civil war in El Salvador, Cortez was raised by her grandma in the nation's capital. She excelled in school and made it to university, but was drafted into the army after she organized political protests. Injured when a soldier stepped on a mine, she escaped the hospital, then entered the US illegally, in 1985. "I worked three jobs," says Cortez, who also found time to volunteer. "I spent time with people with AIDS." When her application for political asylum was accepted, she found a 40-hour job with an info-tech firm in the Bay Area, and added 20 elsewhere as a volunteer. "I heard about green and rain, like El Salvador," says Cortez, who moved to Eugene in 1997, found work at a candle company, and eventually earned degrees from LCC, UO, and PSU. A volunteer at Amigos Multicultural Services Center since her arrival, she facilitates the center's youth program, Juventud FACETA, that began as her UO undergrad project. "We're in our sixth cohort now," she says. "Our young people do 375 hours of community service and get 125 hours of leadership training in human rights."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 4 August 2011

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