Orlando Fuentes is a social worker actively searching for solutions – not suspensions – for the middle school students he counsels at Natomas Middle School Middle School as a staff member of a non-profit known as RSVP, the Restorative Schools Vision Project.

(Photo Courtesy of Orlando Fuentes)

(Photo Courtesy of Orlando Fuentes)

“Our overarching goal is to reduce the schools-to-prison pipeline by working with students, teachers, and parents to reduce the number of suspensions that students receive as punishment for not following school rules. Much of what we do are interventions with students where there is conflict, where a fight is about to break out. We mediate between the students and find agreements where the issues are addressed and mutual agreements are reached,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes made his decision to walk this path because, “I have always been a compassionate person. Another good choice for me would have been to be a psychologist or attorney, always with an emphasis on serving vulnerable populations.”

Fuentes earned his B.A. in Psychology at San Francisco State University, and his Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) at University of California Berkeley.

How has your education helped contribute to your success?

“An M.S.W. will open many doors and can get your foot in the door. From there the world is wide open to you. As you can see from my experience, I did not just work in social services. The advanced degree allowed me to work in child abuse, crime prevention, and in mental and prenatal health. My education gave me a title: Social Worker. In all that I have done, I approached the work with the principles and standards of social work.”

What are your thoughts on what it takes to be successful in this field?

“Passion.”

What advice can you offer about becoming a community leader or advocate for a cause?

“I like the phrase, ‘If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right either way.’ In life, if things go well, we become stronger, more courageous, and more daring. All we have to do is lose our fear.”

Karen Hansen M.S. Earth Sciences, has been an educator and consultant who is currently an analyst regarding land and other public information records. She lives and works in Sacramento, CA. She has been writing about earth and the environmental sciences for Examiner.com since May of 2010. Find her work in several sections of the publication. You can find her work at SF Solar Energy Examiner, SF Environmental News Examiner and Environmental News Examiner