Joe Albers Bio
I was born and raised in San Jose, California. I was privileged to attend Catholic schools where I was exposed to social justice values which I did not start taking seriously until my junior year of high school. That was when I attended an immersion trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses over spring break. At that point, my values changed drastically and I became dedicated to addressing social justice issues especially related to Latin America and poverty.
I chose to attend Santa Clara University because of its mission for social justice. In my sophomore year, I got involved in a student-run community service and activism group called Santa Clara Community Action Program. I served as the leader of a program serving breakfast on Saturday mornings. I had a goal to start the same immersion trip I went on in high school. During that year, I led 40 students down to Tijuana to build houses. Both of those experiences increased my commitment to social justice.
Also as a sophomore at SCU, I had learned about the history of El Salvador in my Central American History course and developed a desire to travel there. My friend, Kristin Simms (now Byrnes), introduced me to the Tamarindo youth group where she participated in the summer internship “program”. John Giuliano came for a visit and I became enamored with the mission of the group. He explained that the experience of going for the summer was living in solidarity in the place of doing service and I was hooked.
That summer of 2000, I went to Guarjila for the first time. I still remember the trip in from the airport and arriving into a adobe walled, dirt floor meeting place/ boxing ring. I walked in, ducking my head through the door, with music blaring to see teenagers lifting weights and admiring their muscles. I immediately questioned why I traveled so far for this crazy boxing ring. After a few days of being with the group and living with my host family, however, I fell in love with the community and became a Tamarindo. To me that meant always being committed to the Guarjilan community. At 6 feet 2 inches and weighing 145 pounds, I earned the nickname “Petaca” which translates to pot belly. Even though I was skinny as a rail, I still had a little tiny belly. The name has stuck ever since.
Upon returning to Santa Clara, Kristin and I started an immersion trip to Guarjila in the Spring. I was so excited to share that experience with 10 of my classmates at SCU. I then committed to return to live there for a year after I graduated in 2002. I worked for the Tamarindo full time and at the local high school teaching English part time. My commitment to the group only grew deeper and I found my favorite activity in the simplicity of visiting houses.
Since I left in 2003, I have returned probably about 10 times for visits where I go from house to house visiting my close friends and spending time at the Tamarindo. I always enjoy the hospitality and the relationships that still stay the same in the face of great distance and drastically different day to day lifestyles.
SInce settling in San Jose, I have been teaching full time high school in low-income Latino communities. My commitments remain the same and I deeply enjoy pushing students to do their best. I currently work at Overfelt High School and coordinate a program called AVID, which prepares first generation students for college. I have earned my Master’s degree in Education Administration and teaching credential from Santa Clara University.
I married my wonderful wife, Karen Dazols, in 2006 here in San Jose, but we had a second wedding celebration in Guarjila where the discoteca was rolled in for a mega party in the Tamarindo. John proved to perhaps have a second career option in wedding planning as it was a fantastic night. We have welcomed into our family our sweet and wild little girl Alicia, who just turned one.
This past year, I have rekindled my connection to the group by starting the Jon Cortina Solidarity Scholarship Program through the Tamarindo Foundation. I had a dream of starting a formal scholarship program to help Guarjilan youth continue their education at universities since I had worked at the local high school in Guarjila. I watched almost all of the talented graduates who could work to improve their community emigrate to the USA.
With the work of Luis Lopez, John, and the support of the foundation, we have managed to fund 4 scholarships for students to study at universities this fall. Applicants needed to not only demonstrate academic success, but more importantly, a commitment to the Guarjilan community. All four students are doing well with their studies and have begun their community service projects. In establishing this program I began working closely with the foundation and was invited to be a board member this year. I was thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of the foundation, continuing my commitment as a Tamarindo.