When Jose Taveras entered McCann Technical School as a 10th grader, he felt like a total stranger coming from a Bronx high school. Hispanic, long-haired, unfamiliar with life outside a city, he had not a friend in the world. As a gay teenager, he chose to keep this private. “I confided in a classmate, and she outed me on the bus,” he recalled, making things exponentially more difficult.
“My mom was a police officer in New York City. She wanted us out of the City. Moving here was a shock for the family for a long time,” he said.
After high school, he worked at several human services agencies. “There were opportunities for growth at the other agencies, but they mostly took advantage of my skills. At BCArc they value me and help me to develop.”
Jose started at a daytime program working with people with brain injuries. There he served as a case manager – helping individuals progress based on their personal goals. He also served as activities manager, a role that came to him naturally.
“I see myself as a creative person,” he explained. “Thinking of new activities comes easy to me. I try to inspire the staff to come up with new activities as well. I find that rewarding when they succeed.”
Today he runs Northview, a new BCArc daytime service that offers a range of community activities to develop personal and social skills.
“I was a bit nervous when we opened,” he said. “There was a lot to take care of. But it went far smoother than I expected. Now it’s up and running and I’m always thinking of ways to improve the system.”
“Being creative requires one to listen,” he said. “I’m always trying to listen, always trying to understand people better, that’s where the ideas come from. If you do it yourself, if you push your own ideas, then they might not align with what people want.”
“I’m always trying to listen, always trying to understand people better, that’s where the ideas come from. If you do it yourself, if you push your own ideas, then they might not align with what people want.”
Police Officer or Service Worker
Like his mother, Jose wanted to work in law enforcement, specifically detective work. But he has since come to realize the importance of his own work in the community. “What I do here in this community has more impact than if I was a police officer,” Jose said. “This is more than ‘protect and serve.’ This is opening doors for people and creating opportunity.”
Jose never expected to stay in this line of work, but has come to see it as a calling. “Feels like I’ve been doing this for a long time, maybe in a previous life even,” he said. “When I visit family in the Bronx, my childhood friends tell me I was always thoughtful and caring as a kid, which was news to me,” he said laughing. “I have a knack at listening and understanding how people feel.”
“You learn a lot from the individuals we serve,” he said. “I talk to perfectly healthy people who complain about their lives non-stop. At the same time I serve individuals who live in wheelchairs and are always smiling, optimistic, and happy. Those are the people who I like to learn from.”
At home, Jose takes care of his ailing mother, a role he doesn’t question. At the time of the interview, he was prepared to donate his kidney for his mother.