Few in the northern Sonoma County community have fought harder than Daisy Cardenas for equal representation and equal access to healthcare across ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Though she is just 26, Cardenas has quite a resume, and her voice has emerged as one of the most powerful in our community when it comes to addressing health inequities.
Currently she has two jobs. One is as a bilingual clinician at Side By Side, where she provides intensive, in-home support services for children with moderate to severe behavioral challenges. Cardenas also serves as program coordinator for Santa Rosa Junior College’s Health Occupation Preparation and Education (HOPE), which is a program that provides support to first-generation, low-income students pursuing careers in healthcare, and which just received a $15,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation.
Before these endeavors, she served as program coordinator for Latino Service Providers, a nonprofit that aims to connect members of the local Latinx community with free public resources to improve their lives.
In this role, Cardenas coordinated monthly meetings, wrote a newsletter, and oversaw an initiative to train first-generation youth on how to provide mental health services across the community.
Cardenas also served on the Healthcare Foundation’s Wetzel Awards nominations committee in 2020, and on our emergency grant review committee in 2021, bringing her lived experience and strong, professional voice to both groups.
Cardenas may already be familiar to you because she is a participant in the Healthcare Foundation’s Mental Health Talent Pipeline Project, which aims to cultivate and retain more bilingual and bicultural mental health professionals in Sonoma County.
She is about to enter her third year in the program, and is applying her scholarship toward her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at the University of San Francisco.
“Mental health services are desperately needed, and providing culturally sensitive services are especially important because we’re all facing mental health challenges,” she said recently. “By providing bilingual and bicultural skills, I can reach people in my community who are in great need, and help them overcome the stigma around mental health.”
Cardenas, the eldest of five children in a family from Guanajuato, Mexico, is the first in her family to go to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Sonoma State University in 2018, and became interested in public health after seeing how the system fails so many.
Ultimately, Cardenas said she’d like to work with individuals impacted by trauma, as well as combat the stigma around mental health, particularly in the Latinx community, so that more people get the help they need.
“I want to help marginalized communities and people who would not normally have access to these services,” she said. We at the Healthcare Foundation are glad she’s here, and we are honored to support her on her path.