Photo by Stephanie Xiloj
Janelle Fine: Finding Purpose in Giving Back
Everyone knows Janelle Fine, the lady who says good morning, takes phone calls, answers questions and provides anything students, families or teachers might need. In just 15 minutes one mid-September day, she helped more than five students and two parents who came looking for her.
Janelle began her job as office manager at Eastside in May 2020, during the pandemic, having little to no contact with any students. Her job consisted of calling students who fell asleep during class, providing support to families and answering their questions.
From a young age, she was taught that people must serve their community.
“Help [your] raza, have their back,” she said.
As a child, Janelle was exposed to community work by her parents who had participated in the Peace Corps and told her about their experiences in South America helping underserved communities. Janelle would also accompany her mother to the Half Moon Bay area to work with migrant workers.
As a teenager, she had a summer job tutoring students whose parents worked extended hours. Janelle would often take her students to the beach or out to eat, a special treat for many of them. This job started many lifelong friendships that remain significant to her today. A huge smile appears on her face when she speaks about one of her students who has grown up and persevered through many challenges.
Her deep understanding of the differences that exist between communities drove her interest in social justice and contributing to her own community. She graduated from San Francisco State University in 2005 with a major in Psychology, knowing that she wanted to do community-based work.
Outside of her community work, Janelle also enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She likes to cook, particularly Mexican and Italian food. Her weekends also consist of going out to eat and doing other local activities.
As a Latina, Janelle understands many of the challenges many Eastside students face. One of the most important ways she can help in her job, she said, comes after all the questions and phone calls.
“I want to encourage them to learn how to manage their feelings,” Janelle said.
She also recognizes that when students think about careers, in many households, they learn that a “good job is someone that works in a white-collar environment”. She stresses to students that it isn’t necessarily true, there are many options that don’t all look the same. Students should remember, she said, that there are many paths available and they should take advantage of the advisors and opportunities they will receive.
Janelle said her job at Eastside continues to fulfill her desire to serve her community.
“Being here is like an honor to me, to take as much of me to support your parents and you guys,” she said.
This article originally appeared in print, Vol. 22 Issue 1, on page 4. Several errors have been corrected in this online edition. Janelle graduated from college in 2005, is not married and a word was missing from her quote about career aspirations.