“You’re talking too fast.”

By Ashley Vazquez – TOLA Spring 2017

I’ve had a different experience when compared to most TOLA fellows. Last year I started as a volunteer helping educate my community about sugary sweetened beverages and collecting surveys to learn about the health of Stockton. Learning that there was a serious diabetes issue, I wanted to return as a fellow and continue the work I started.

Most of the skills I’m developing in the program come from first hand experiences. My communication skills have definitely improved, thanks to community members who’ve given me both indirect and direct feedback. In my first week of TOLA, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a woman who owned a restaurant. I remember feeling nervous. Beads of sweat settled on my forehead and I could feel my stomach turn as I tried to get through everything in my script. When I finished talking, the owner had a blank stare on her face and simply said, “You’re talking too fast.” That day I learned three things: 1) I should pay more attention to people’s facial expressions when talking with them; 2) Sometimes less is more; and 3) Being open to criticism is key as an organizer in training.

Although I don’t know what my next step will be after TOLA, I do know that the lessons I’ve learned will stay with me forever.