Francisco’s Story: Leading by Helping Others

Francisco Prado is a junior at ARISE High School in Oakland, CA. He has completed 500 hours and helped build a school in Nepal in 2017. Here Francisco reflects on what service means to him:

I was born and raised in Oakland, and I’ve lived here all my life. There is a lot more to Oakland than just the things that get covered on the news. When I think about my city, I think about how the people here are trying their best to improve and make life better for each other. 

buildOn is a big part of that, and I’m proud to say that I joined buildOn before most people did — I actually started when I was in seventh grade. Technically, my older sister forced me to go to buildOn. She was in high school and she was babysitting me.  But even though I was younger than everyone, buildOn included me, and I saw people from different high schools and backgrounds coming together to make change. I learned then that no matter your age, no matter what school you go to, no matter your background, you can make a difference. 

Francisco (center) serving meals to his neighbors experiencing food insecurity at St. Vincent De Paul Society in Oakland.

Growing up in the Bay Area, I’ve noticed that homelessness has increased a lot in my lifetime. It’s one of the issues that I’ve become really passionate about. I see people who are hungry and without a home, and I’ve realized that we have to do something because if no one helps them, they could die. I believe that in order for people to help themselves, sometimes you have to help them first. That’s why St. Vincent De Paul Society is one of my favorite service projects. 

At St. Vincent De Paul, we help give people experiencing homelessness meals, shelter, and clothing. I knew I made an impact there when I served meals to kids and families, and they started smiling and were happy. And because of buildOn, I interned there for the summer of 2019. That summer I helped prepare and cook meals, and I would eat with the people we served and hear their stories. 

The thing that I’ve learned about leadership through service — it’s about building people up — building up those around you and building up yourself.

When COVID-19 happened, I knew I was really going to miss going there and giving back. One day my dad, my sister, and I were making tacos, and we had a lot left. My sister said, “Why don’t we give some to the homeless people who live nearby?” I thought, “You know what? That’s not a bad idea.” So I told my sister we should do it, and I told her we had to put on our buildOn shirts. 

We walked a few blocks and gave out all of our extra food — bean tacos, potato tacos, and beef tacos. We served around a dozen people. And then we did it a second time a few weeks later. My family doesn’t have a lot and even though we are struggling a little bit, we know there are people who are struggling a lot more than us. I want to do anything I can to show those people that they’re not forgotten.

Francisco helping his younger neighbors learn about growing food in his local community garden.

My sister and I are known to be good people. But the thing is, I don’t think we would have gone to great lengths to help others if we didn’t have buildOn. I wouldn’t even have gone to St. Vincent De Paul if I didn’t join buildOn, let alone make food for people who need it in my community. buildOn has helped me to become the leader I am today and shown me that I can make a difference. I’m proud to say that I have over 400 hours of service with buildOn.

And here’s the thing that I’ve learned about leadership through service — it’s about building people up — building up those around you and building up yourself. Being a leader isn’t about being perfect — no one is perfect. It’s about taking responsibility for what you do and taking action to help those around you. 

It’s this idea that gives me so much hope. People in this world right now are in need of more leadership and I believe buildOn is the key to that. buildOn helps younger generations such as mine and hopefully many more to come to help us become leaders through service. I think about all of the students like my sister who have graduated and who are continuing to give back. And I know that if all of us take our leadership seriously, then we have the power to change the world.