Women of Power

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Nancy Valdivia Ochoa: No hay que llegar primero, Pero hay que saber llegar

Named after first lady Nancy Reagan by her immigrant parents, Nancy Valdivia Ochoa was destined for a life of success and service in our country. Her journey from Culiacan, Mexico to our city of San Diego in the United States takes us through a series of inspirational achievements that resonate with many of our immigrant communities. 

Beginning with two hard working parents, her father, a bracero of the 80’s determined to provide a better life for his family, brought his family here through the perils of crossing the river. In the cold winter of December when many of these men, women and children perish to the freezing temperatures of the desert and the river itself, her family made three attempts to cross the border. She was only one year old and her sister two and a half. One can only imagine the fear, stress and angst her father and mother carried through this quest, but also courage and unshakable determination. As a baby, Nancy experienced this, three times until success was achieved. There is such resilience in this experience, such courage that was planted in her as an infant that it is evident it has been ingrained in her cellular memory. This part of her story is important because it defines the DNA that shaped this woman into who she is today.

She was raised in South San Diego, in the heart of Logan Heights, and her family lived in poverty by any standard. Both her parents worked very hard to make ends meet, and often those ends did not meet. Her family moved constantly facing eviction, and at one point they found themselves living in a van for a few weeks. Yet Nancy believes that, while they were poor, they truly never lacked anything, and remembers her childhood with positivity. This beautiful optimism is a staple of Nancy’s personality, one that is contagious to all who come in contact with her. So what happens when you mix a courageous and resilient DNA with undying optimism? You get an authentic Woman of Power! 

Today, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chicana Chicano Studies from San Diego State University, graduated as a Outstanding Graduating Senior- with Distinction,  and is the Mayoral Executive Assistant to Mayor Sotelo-Solis at City of National City. She has earned several leadership certifications and has served as a volunteer in many capacities. However, her journey was not a linear one. When she was in fifth grade her mother became mentally ill after a hysterectomy and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, unable to care for Nancy and her sister, they were put into the foster care system until her father was able to regain custody. An experience that marked Nancy’s perspective forever. Her social worker became a lifeline, a true supportive ally that inspired her so much that she wanted to become a social worker too, from that point on she knew she had to go to college- she needed to go to college. During high school she was an outstanding student, an alum of the Puente program, a program designed to empower students and guide them to graduate and attend college. A pioneer program at the time, today it is not uncommon for children to enroll in these kinds of programs. With a clear sense of direction she enrolled in college right after high school and left her home to begin her journey.  However, she was hungry to live life and felt uncomfortable in her new surroundings so she returned home after only one semester, began working and even got married. College became a back seat passenger. 

Marriage did not turn out to be the bed of roses that she hoped and after a painful abusive relationship she managed to leave her husband and was divorced before she was 25. She continued to work and excel at her jobs with excellence, as she had done since her school days.  With her love for her community and her commitment to pay it forward, she became engaged with volunteer service and leadership programs and yes, as she matured she returned to college, only this time she would not stop until she reached the finish line. She was still in college when her father fell ill, and on his deathbed she promised him she would finish college. She tells us with deep nostalgia about this intimate moment with her dad, and how she quoted to him the famous lyrics “No hay que llegar primero, pero hay que saber llegar” (‘You don’t need to be first, but you must know how to get there”) by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. She imprinted this quote on her graduation cap; this iconic Mexican song sums up everything that Nancy stands for. She has had a long journey to where she is today, but she is dancing her way through it every step of the way.

Nancy is a community role model in every aspect of her life. She has mentored a student since seventh grade through the Hermanitas program from MANA de San Diego, in her new role for the community of South San Diego County Nancy continues to excel in her position with a new found self-confidence. Her words of wisdom for all Latinas, as she tells us, is to know that “Everything, every part of your life had to happen, the good and the bad, in order  to become who you are today. It couldn’t have happened without each experience”.  We celebrate Nancy Valdivia Ochoa for her amazing determination, passion and relentless optimism~ she inspires us to work hard for what we want and the right conditions will manifest at the right time.

Women of Power

Nancy Valdivia Ochoa: No hay que llegar primero, Pero hay que saber llegar

By Jennifer Bustamante

Named after first lady Nancy Reagan by her immigrant parents, Nancy Valdivia Ochoa was destined for a life of success and service in our country. Her journey from Culiacan, Mexico to our city of San Diego in the United States takes us through a series of inspirational achievements that resonate with many of our immigrant communities. 

Beginning with two hard working parents, her father, a bracero of the 80’s determined to provide a better life for his family, brought his family here through the perils of crossing the river. In the cold winter of December when many of these men, women and children perish to the freezing temperatures of the desert and the river itself, her family made three attempts to cross the border. She was only one year old and her sister two and a half. One can only imagine the fear, stress and angst her father and mother carried through this quest, but also courage and unshakable determination. As a baby, Nancy experienced this, three times until success was achieved. There is such resilience in this experience, such courage that was planted in her as an infant that it is evident it has been ingrained in her cellular memory. This part of her story is important because it defines the DNA that shaped this woman into who she is today.

She was raised in South San Diego, in the heart of Logan Heights, and her family lived in poverty by any standard. Both her parents worked very hard to make ends meet, and often those ends did not meet. Her family moved constantly facing eviction, and at one point they found themselves living in a van for a few weeks. Yet Nancy believes that, while they were poor, they truly never lacked anything, and remembers her childhood with positivity. This beautiful optimism is a staple of Nancy’s personality, one that is contagious to all who come in contact with her. So what happens when you mix a courageous and resilient DNA with undying optimism? You get an authentic Woman of Power! 

Today, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chicana Chicano Studies from San Diego State University, graduated as a Outstanding Graduating Senior- with Distinction,  and is the Mayoral Executive Assistant to Mayor Sotelo-Solis at City of National City. She has earned several leadership certifications and has served as a volunteer in many capacities. However, her journey was not a linear one. When she was in fifth grade her mother became mentally ill after a hysterectomy and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, unable to care for Nancy and her sister, they were put into the foster care system until her father was able to regain custody. An experience that marked Nancy’s perspective forever. Her social worker became a lifeline, a true supportive ally that inspired her so much that she wanted to become a social worker too, from that point on she knew she had to go to college- she needed to go to college. During high school she was an outstanding student, an alum of the Puente program, a program designed to empower students and guide them to graduate and attend college. A pioneer program at the time, today it is not uncommon for children to enroll in these kinds of programs. With a clear sense of direction she enrolled in college right after high school and left her home to begin her journey.  However, she was hungry to live life and felt uncomfortable in her new surroundings so she returned home after only one semester, began working and even got married. College became a back seat passenger. 

Marriage did not turn out to be the bed of roses that she hoped and after a painful abusive relationship she managed to leave her husband and was divorced before she was 25. She continued to work and excel at her jobs with excellence, as she had done since her school days.  With her love for her community and her commitment to pay it forward, she became engaged with volunteer service and leadership programs and yes, as she matured she returned to college, only this time she would not stop until she reached the finish line. She was still in college when her father fell ill, and on his deathbed she promised him she would finish college. She tells us with deep nostalgia about this intimate moment with her dad, and how she quoted to him the famous lyrics “No hay que llegar primero, pero hay que saber llegar” (‘You don’t need to be first, but you must know how to get there”) by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. She imprinted this quote on her graduation cap; this iconic Mexican song sums up everything that Nancy stands for. She has had a long journey to where she is today, but she is dancing her way through it every step of the way.

Nancy is a community role model in every aspect of her life. She has mentored a student since seventh grade through the Hermanitas program from MANA de San Diego, in her new role for the community of South San Diego County Nancy continues to excel in her position with a new found self-confidence. Her words of wisdom for all Latinas, as she tells us, is to know that “Everything, every part of your life had to happen, the good and the bad, in order  to become who you are today. It couldn’t have happened without each experience”.  We celebrate Nancy Valdivia Ochoa for her amazing determination, passion and relentless optimism~ she inspires us to work hard for what we want and the right conditions will manifest at the right time.

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