Rachelle Escamilla awarded Philanthropist of the Year

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) Humanities and Communications Professor Rachelle Escamilla recently received the Philanthropist of the Year award from the Friends of the San Benito County Free Library (SBCFL). Her generous work in building a social media presence and website for the SBCFL has helped the library monumentally.

Escamilla, a long-time volunteer and attendee of the SBCFL, decided to step in upon noticing the library’s lack of presence on the internet. “[SBCFL’s] market was just limited to whoever came to the library, which was not very good,” she said. “Any organization that doesn’t have any media presence is going to suffer.”

Past outreach and publication experience gave her the knowledge to broadcast the library’s information to the public. By building a website, creating and managing social media accounts, and fixing up the library’s informational brochure, the library has had greater public impact and bandwidth.

The Friends of SBCFL, a nonprofit meant to enhance the SBCFL’s programs, recognized the impact of this assistance.

“With Rachelle’s help with getting the website up and [increasing] our Facebook presence, our donations have increased,” said Susan Logue, President of the Friends of SBCFL. The Philanthropist of the Year is awarded annually to community members who go above and beyond in continuing the Friends of SBCFL’s vision.

Escamilla’s work had much to do with giving back. “My mom was a teen mom,” she said. “She wanted me to be educated. And in order to do that as a migrant farm labor mother, she took me to the library … that’s why I’m sitting here, it’s books.”

Thus, making sure the community is aware of the library’s programs is vitally important for helping children like Escamilla. “She feels empathy with other women in our community who are young mothers trying to raise kids in low-income situations,” said Friends of SBCFL member Mary Schneider.

Escamilla has also done work across the globe to make writing and reading poetry accessible, from founding the Poets and Writers Coalition at San Jose State University to co-founding the Center for Creative Writing at Sun Yat-sen University. “I do it because I’m brown and I want to read books about brown girls … I want to read the struggles of girls who are coming up in the real world,” Escamilla said.

“It was obviously her to be the one to be honored this time around because we just came from nothing,” Logue said.

Escamilla’s penchant for hard work and community engagement are greatly admired by the Friends of the SBCFL. In supporting her along the way, Escamilla cites her husband and family.

“Whenever a person is successful, it’s because of the work of all the people around them who have supported them,” she said. “I feel really grateful and thankful to the friends of the library for giving me the opportunity to work with them.”

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