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Voces Oral History Interview with Alex Cantillo

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0:00 - Preamble--Introductions 2:18 - Quarantine challenges

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Segment Synopsis: Alex Cantillo is a Cuban male born and raised in Miami, Florida. He’s the oldest of five boys and son to divorced parents. He’s an educator, graduate student, intern, and sports lover. His passions lie in leadership development and performance excellence and he values hard work and perseverance. He has a master’s in mental health counseling and is currently working towards a master’s in sports psychology. On top of that, he has two years of doctoral studies in clinical psychology and is planning on switching from a PsyD to a PhD route.

Cantillo notes that he’s known for being gung-ho and the typical go getter. He’s positive, energetic, and likes doing things that nobody else wants to do. Essentially, he’s always trying to rally everyone up. However, his personality habits and extroverted tendencies have been challenged by COVID. Being isolated at home has created too much of a comfort and so he’s lost a lot of motivation. The biggest challenge has been separating his student life versus his home life. Cantillo says that the lines have been blurred and there are no boundaries. Since he is Latinx, home is for resting. He was raised to believe that home is for restoration, peace, and a place to disconnect. Since he was a high school student, he’s always been occupied with school and endeavors which have taken place outside his home, so having everything under one roof has become overwhelming. He is also very meticulous and good with time management, but quarantine has still challenged those habits.

Keywords: Latinx Community; Mental Health; Miami, Florida, Educator

Subjects: Minorities in higher education; Quarantine--Social aspects; Social Interaction--United States

8:18 - Pandemic impact on education

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Segment Synopsis: During his classes, Cantillo mentions that professors have been engaging, supporting, and have even offered a forum for students to vent. Yet, he still admits that it’s been difficult to accommodate and adapt to classes. He says that professors have been approaching instruction with a business as usual mindset and although he recognizes the need for that mindset, however, he also understands that as a student, things suck as he puts it. He abides by the philosophies of humanism and so he strives to be empathetic in his classes. Individually, professors are able to facilitate the experience through extensions and mixed assignments. For online classes though, he still feels disengaged and a disconnect.

As a professor himself, he is going into his second semester of teaching. Just as during the spring semester, he is going with the flow of what the students are feeling. A lot of his students lost their jobs or are currently working during the pandemic and others have a hard time accessing online assignments, so he is being flexible with assignments which the students positively received. It was his first time teaching during the spring semester and he got a pandemic thrown at him, but now he feels more comfortable teaching and is able to check-in on students more often.

A lot of students have had family issues and he recognizes a pressure to succeed among people of color. Everyone has so much on their plate and it’s specially challenging now. Cantillo feels that he can relate with a lot of his students since he is a Latino male and still fairly young.

Keywords: Education--Online-Learning; Educator; Latinx Community; Post-Secondary Instructor; Zoom

Subjects: College students--Education; Higher education; Minorities in higher education

18:53 - University handling of the pandemic

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Segment Synopsis: Cantillo notes that his university was able to help students through the Cares Act. However, he feels more could have been done in offering guidance counseling. At the undergraduate level, a lot of resources were offered through the library, counseling, job portals and more. At the other institution Cantillo teaches at, he has just been focusing on course development and hasn’t been able to engage with students as much. As classes get rolling, he is interested to see how to manage uncertainty as the pandemic continues to exist.

Both of the universities Cantillo teaches at are in the Bay Area and both are hinting at a potential hybrid model with a primary focus on online classes. At the graduate program he teaches at, the university has created protocols for essential employees to return, but there will be no classes taught on site. He will be teaching purely asynchronous with some live lectures. At the undergraduate institution he teaches at, they’re fully online and it seems to Cantillo that aspiring to return on site as safely as possible. Overall, the focus is going to be online, until it’s safe to start brining students on campus.

According to Cantillo, California, where he used to be at, has been more proactive in ensuring safety whereas in Florida, some places are reopening and trying to get students in the classroom already.

Keywords: Education--Online Learning; Educator; Pandemic--University--Student--Communication

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Social Interaction--United States

28:31 - Personal relationship to sports

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Segment Synopsis: A lot of the sports work that Cantillo participates in has benefits from being in person. Telehealth and Zoom have allowed engagement, but Cantillo recognizes that there’s an impersonal feel to it. In his family, sports unite them and lets them share quality time. Especially, as a Latino male, family time is something that he treasures and prioritizes. With the lack of going to sporting events and having games be in the middle of the workday, it changes the dynamics.

His brother is practicing with his team at his university and it worries Cantillo and his family due to the potential of one person having the virus, but they’re also glad that he holds onto that sense of normalcy. More so, they won’t be able to go watch him play and that’s personal to Cantillo because he used to coach his brother and he derives happiness from seeing him be his best self.

He is currently trying to put together a leadership program for the athletes that he works with, but it’s been difficult to implement over Zoom since people aren’t as present.

Even more, a lot of the high school athletes he works with have to send in film to universities for recruitment purposes and they’re depending on this coming season. Some of them are relying on sports to get into college and so it means a lot to them. Since Cantillo and his brother did that, managing the athlete’s worries during the recruitment process has been a primary focus of his.

Keywords: Educator; Latinx Community; Zoom

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Quarantine--Social aspects; Social Interaction--United States

39:29 - Mental health and athlete’s daily life

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Segment Synopsis: A lot of Cantillo’s athletes are struggling right now. They’re tired of doing the same thing and want to simply go out and play. Some are taking pride in Cantillo’s leadership development course, but overall, not being able to play has impacted their mental health a lot. Cantillo follows the saying, control the controllables, and he admits that it’s hard because the pandemic has put everyone into a box. He also realizes that self-care is difficult and so he’s trying to model that for them. With diverse groups who are male, there’s a culture of machismo where one holds emotions it which, Cantillo notes, makes it tougher.

With the specific students he’s working with, he’s trying to instill good habits that would let them transcend beyond the field. Besides that, they have been working out and staying active, but the challenge he sees is in their nutrition because it affects their performance and immune system.

Working out has been sporadic with his athletes. Motivation is a big factor, because Cantillo acknowledges that he has a home gym with equipment and so he doesn’t have to pay for a gym membership or risk contracting COVID. Based on his impression though, his athletes find it tough to find motivation, but are still getting the work done. He makes it a goal to workout five to seven times a week, but he notes that it’s going to get harder as school gets rolling. Even for students, he’s interested to see how motivated his students will be after a full day of Zoom classes.

Keywords: Educator; Mental Health; Zoom

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Quarantine--Social aspects; Social Interaction--United States

52:19 - Future plans in academia

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Segment Synopsis: Cantillo has many motivations behind transferring academic programs. Institutionally, his university underwent operation and administrative changes, which came unexpectedly for Castillo. He simply did not feel in alignment with where the school was headed. Culturally and personally, the transfer also has a lot to do with his proximity to home. Castillo values family a lot and he appreciates the idea of doing what he loves in the city where he was raised. Mainly, it was all about being close to the people that he cares most about.

On another note, Cantillo has had challenges with some universities he has applied to. Some weren’t able to take him in because they were handling their own student population in relation to COVID. It’s been difficult to find a home for his academic studies and so he continues to look into other programs, but that combined with coming back home, has presented him with challenges.

Keywords: Educator; Pandemic--University--Student--Communication

Subjects: College students--Education; Higher Education; Minorities in higher education