Reaching across cultural and language barriers, immigrant students at the San Francisco International High School have compiled profiles of individuals working to solve a problem the students are personally affected by or interested in. This group of change-makers is fighting drug and alcohol addiction.

Rebecca Peng



Our group interviewed Rebecca Peng. She was born and raised in Taiwan. She is a counselor at the Wellness Center of San Francisco International High School. She has been providing mental health counseling to high school students for about eight years.

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“The most common reason why people use drugs is that they don’t know how to take care of themselves. Many don’t have effective tools to deal with their stress, depression, or anger. As a result, they turn to drugs to feel better. Playing sports, talking to friends or family, and reaching out to an adult at school are some good ways to manage difficult emotions. If you don’t have good skills to take care of yourself and healthy ways to have fun in life, then it’s easier for you to turn to drugs to forget about your problems. That’s how most people get into drug addiction.”

Student Group 1

Cesar, 14, is from Honduras. Rustie, 16, is from the Philippines. David, 16, is from El Salvador.

More from Rebecca:

“Many people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol don’t have good tools or options in their life to cope with difficult emotions.”

A lot of people with addiction problems often have more life struggles. They have suffered from depression, anxiety, traumas and other serious issues and have never gotten help. Instead, they turn to drugs to relieve their pain. She helps people resolve crisis in their lives and learn how to live a healthier and happier life.


Yenni, 16, is from Mexico. Michel, 15, is from Guatemala. Adonay,16, is from El Salvador. Jiarong, 16, is from China.

Katie Bouche

Katie Bouche

Our group interviewed Katie Bouche. She is from Massachusetts. She works with the SF AIDS foundation. She has been working on this topic for 13 years.

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I thought that people who use drugs have a lot of diseases and we should put them in jail or in the hospital. However Katie told us that to help people who are using drugs, we need to be nice with them, to respect them. They are not bad people, they just have a problem with drugs.

Student Group
Mujid Algahim, 18, is from Yemen. Jose Flores, 16, is from El Salvador. Enrique Sibrian, 17, is from El Salvador. Nelcy Joya, 17, is from Honduras.

Shirley Maciel


Our group interviewed Shirley Maciel. She is from Hayward, California. She works at Horizons Unlimited of San Francisco, on 17th and Potrero. She has worked there for three years but has been in the field for 10 years. She is the program director for treatment and gender-specific programs. She also does substance abuse counseling. She loves to see that every person feels better with treatment.

Student Group: Gladys,18, is from Guatemala. Cristian, 18, is from Guatemala.

Eva Hom


Our group interviewed Eva Hom. She grew up in the East Bay and lives in San Francisco now. She works as a community health coordinator at Huckleberry Youth Program in San Francisco. As a coordinator, a lot of her job is scheduling and talking to school teachers on how to help students learn more about health. So she has other staff who work with her to go into schools to do presentations to teach students about different health topics. She shows the students what problems they can have if they have drug addiction and what they can do to not have drug addiction.

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Eva said she cares about drug addiction because she really loves to learn about health and she loves sharing that information. She wants to make sure that young people are healthy, because if they are healthy then they can be happy and successful in their lives. So, she thinks health relates to everything else.


Mario, 16, is from Honduras. Bessy, 14, is from Honduras. Maria, 14, is from Mexico.

Ramses Muñoz


Ramses Muñoz is the community health coordinator at the Huckleberry Youth Health Center. Ramses received a B.A. in ethnic studies and a minor in education from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining HYP, Ramses was health educator II at TechniClinic School Based Health Center, where he provided students with family planning services, trained students to become peer health educators, and co-organized a school-wide health fair.

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“I really like the work that I do because it gives me the opportunity to address the health needs of youth and their communities and provide them with reliable and helpful information.”


Joel, 16, is from El Salvador. Beyza, 15, is from Turkey. Elias, 16, is from El Salvador and Fabiola,14, is from Guatemala.

Mario Bandes


Our group interviewed Mario Bandes. Mario is from Nicaragua. He is the director of outpatient services for HealthRight360. His program serves a high-risk population that deals with problems with drugs,alcohol and mental health.He has five years of working in this field. His job is about managing a program in San Srancisco that deals with individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol. He does this job because he wants to help other people to change the problem that they have.

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When we talked with Mario, he said that what he loves about his job is the possibility to change peoples’ lives.

Student Group:

Chikis, 14, is from Honduras. Jonathan, 16, is from El Salvador. Cesar, 17, is from Honduras.


Veronica Forbes


Our group interviewed Veronica Forbes. She is from the Philippines and she grew up in San Diego. She works at Episcopal Community Services and she is on the SF – START. She works with all the single adult county homeless shelters; their names are MSC-South, Next Door, Sanctuary, Dolores Street and Providence. She has been working there for two and a half years. She helps people get homes, food, stamps, social security, health insurance, employment, ID cards and documentation.

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“The only thing I could think of was going to help the people around me,” Veronica said. “I was exposed to a lot of poverty and danger growing up; I lived in a very dangerous neighborhood and I saw a lot of people suffering. I worked really hard to get myself into college and after graduating college I got a masters degree.”


Joshua, 16, is from San Francisco. Pamela, 16, is from El Salvador. Yaneth, 17, is from El Salvador. Edgar, 18, is from Guatemala.

Melissa Morelli


Melissa Morelli was born in California. She has worked at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for 10 years. She is the logistics coordinator for Syringe Access Services, a local needle exchange program.

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‘’Needle exchanges are places for people who are using [drugs] to come in and have a safe place to talk, tell us what’s on their mind, and get the supplies that they need to use safely. It’s one of the few places people can go where they are completely respected for their choices and are not judged for who they are.”