We had the good fortune of connecting with Czarina Salido and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Czarina, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am Mexican American. My background is mostly a mix of Indigenous and European ancestry. My family was considered low income. Grandpa had a small pension from when he fought in the Mexican Revolution at the age of 14. Mom was the only one working and had to support not only herself, but also my brother and me, her eldest sister, and her mother and father. Sometimes I wake up and still can’t believe that I live in San Diego. It’s taken a long time to get here. Growing up in the desert with extreme heat and a twenty-degree difference from day to night, you think you’ve grown thick skin: but it’s more of an awareness not to get your thin epidermis too close to a cholla cactus. There’s life in the desert – shrubs and cacti grow – but not like they do in San Diego. My desert hometown has jade plants, but here they are jade bushes! Embarrassingly, it took until I was in my forties to move away from home. But, I am glad, because I didn’t want to be a rooted cactus in a pot, I want to be a Torrey Pine.
What should our readers know about your business?
Do you ever dream of flying – the feeling of that first leap as you become airborne? It doesn’t happen to me often: and if you’re lucky enough to remember it after you wake up, it’s memorable. That’s the feeling I get when I think about the past four years of working with Native American children, mostly girls aged 9-12. The challenge and responsibility can be enormous, and even feel intimidating at times. But it’s the best kind – an excited nervousness. I mentor girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), with an emphasis in space exploration. My organization, Taking Up Space, awards the girls with an all-inclusive trip to Space Camp. Once there, they spend six days training like astronauts. It’s an incredible experience: 96% of the graduates said Space Camp increased their interest in STEM topics. Native American kids have the highest high school drop-out rate and the highest suicide rate. And studies show that girls lose interest in STEM-related topics in middle school. That’s why we’re trying to make a difference – and it’s working. It took a while until we could demonstrate how much of a difference we were making to these young lives, because our program invests three years of mentoring and Space Camp visits. Our girls are maintaining their interest in STEM through middle school, so much so that one of the girls went from not knowing what she wanted to be, to wanting to be an astronaut. In June of 2021, if the pandemic has abated and it is safe to do so, we plan on taking the most students so far – eight. It is going to be expensive. We are funded by individuals, and spend around two thousand dollars per student. People from all over the world donate. I have grown increasingly aware of the kindness and beauty in people, and of the struggles of the underserved. I am thankful to my community – and in return I am here to be of service.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
At the south end of the country there’s Imperial Beach, and just north of it, Coronado Beach. They are very different in feel but both are unique and special. Sitting outside the Hotel Del Coronado feels timeless. There’s usually a sand castle built on Coronado Beach each holiday, with a new greeting. It’s fascinating to watch the sculptor form these impressive artworks. A short walk up the beach is what has to be one of the happiest places on earth for canines – the dog beach. Their joy for me is infectious, watching the dogs of all different shapes and sizes splash around.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I need to recognize my five Aunties. They are strong, beautiful women who have always loved me. One in particular stands out – my Tia Trini. She never married nor had children, and lived with us at my grandparents’ home. Tia Trini was often in bed due to her rheumatoid arthritis and depression. Even through her pain, she would recognize my struggles and bad days. She’d rub lotion into my dry elbows and scraped-up knees, and would tell me that I was smart, talented, and beautiful. Thank you, Tia Trini (who passed away in 2014), Tia Mercy, Tia Socorro, Tia Beatrice, and Tia Anne.
Twitter: @taking_up_space @czaritsa
Desert Owl Productions