I have known Rolando as a Director of a Community Service and Food Program at Bethel Seventh Day Adventist Church where he has given of his life to help poor people and families in need. Without his efforts, many needy families from Pomona and surrounding cities in the Inland Empire region would go hungry. As a board member of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, a center that serves day laborers, I have also been impressed with Rolando’s efforts in collaborating with various members of our organization, including Melissa Ayala, in holding a Christmas toy drive and in getting donations of clothing and other quality of life products for the day laborers. Whatever errors Rolando made in his younger years, he has made up for them by serving the surrounding communities through his position as a Head Deacon and working as a mentor and spiritual guide for dozens of young people. Because of him, many of these young people stayed in school, graduated and returned as volunteers at the Food Bank. Today, Rolando is a known leader in the Pomona Community that is respected for being a good husband, an outstanding Sabbath School teacher, a proven program coordinator, and a successful Neuropsychology student at the University of Phoenix.
Our entire community is distraught at the possibility that Rolando would be taken away from these positive efforts and deported to Panama. Over my lifetime as a Professor and as a public intellectual, I have learned that the sign of a great leader is one who makes mistakes but uses the lessons from those mistakes to build something better. Rolando is a living example of one who learned from his mistakes and has now created what can only be described as an exemplary life of giving, creating, and sharing. The city of Pomona, and the surrounding communities in the Inland Empire, needs the positive work that Rolando is carrying out. Most of all, we need to continue using the example of Rolando for our young people. I ask you — what kind of messages will these young people be given if Rolando is deported? I urge all our friends and community organization to support Rolando and do everything that is possible to keep him here where he belongs – giving of his life to our communities.