David Lopez is a charismatic individual who is well respected
throughout Alta California Regional Center (ACRC). In addition to
being a client of ACRC, he holds a position on the Executive
Management Team (EMT) as the Client Advocate. David has served as
a full-time employee for 22 years, recently celebrating his
employee anniversary on January 2. The role of Client Advocate
provides him the opportunity to work with and educate clients,
Service Providers, and Service Coordinators on Client’s Rights
and the functions of a Regional Center.
His journey to the Client Advocate position started in 1998, when
ACRC began an initiative to employ clients. David was one of
several who were hired to work part-time as Office Assistants. A
year later, he was offered a full-time position in the Mail Room
and worked there for about 6 years. In 2004, the position of
Consumer Advocate (now called Client Advocate) was posted and
David was approached by the Executive Director at the time, about
applying for the position. He accepted the position, but it was
not without its challenges.
There had been other Consumer Advocates, but never one who was a
member of the Executive Management Team. “Back then there
wasn’t a step-by-step process to the [Client Advocate] position.
I had to learn and figure it out as the days passed,” he said.
David learned from the individuals around him; clients,
employees, and executive members alike. He tackled the duties of
the role with ease, communicating with and educating Service
Providers, employees, and clients. His success as a Client
Advocate can be attributed to the immense support and
encouragement he received from his coworkers, EMT members, and
most especially, what he had learned from his family during his
childhood and adolescence.
Throughout his life, David’s family never treated him like he was
anything less than a human being; regarding his disability as a
characteristic rather than his entire personhood. Despite his
diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, David wasn’t prevented from doing
physical labor. During his adolescence, he worked with his mother
in the summer as a custodial assistant. His mother told him, “I
am not always going to be around, so you need to learn what to do
in life.” David’s mother was both a teacher and a major support
system during his upbringing. He later learned from his medical
records, just how far his mother went to provide him a better way
David had undergone multiple surgeries to gain the use of his
legs, being prodded by his mother to keep pushing through the
pain; she was determined for him to walk and constantly
encouraged him. He was able to walk when he was 8 years old.
Throughout his life, David witnessed the lack of support other
individuals with disabilities experienced from their family and
the outside community. This was in contrast to the encouragement
he received from his family. They provided him with an
immeasurable support system and he credits his mother for
motivating him to walk. Because of his family’s enthusiastic
motivation and witnessing his peers not receiving the same type
of encouragement, he was inspired to be supportive to clients who
might not have that in their lives.
David makes it a point to show the clients of ACRC that he has
confidence in them and is there to support and empower them. “I
look at clients as people first and their disabilities second,”
is his fundamental way of thinking. David truly listens to what
clients say so he can fully understand what their needs, thoughts
and concerns are. He recognizes that as their Client Advocate, it
isn’t his words that matter, but their own.
David has been happily married to his wife, Brenda, for 15
years. He feels grateful for Brenda because she looked past
his disability and sees him as a person, despite his
thinking that he would never be married. David credits a big part
of his success at Alta California Regional Center because of his
wife’s immense love and support. Brenda willingly made
professional sacrifices to stay at home and raise their daughter
and David’s stepson so he could pursue his career at
ACRC. “If it wasn’t for my wife’s continued love and support I
would not be where I am today in my career,” David said. He
enjoys spending time with his family and reading in his free
time. David is a big fan of Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders.