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Student Spotlight: Steven Bradley

Browsing the web, we came across this great article on the Swords to Plowshares site about soon-to-be alum Steven Bradley.  Called, “Veteran Finds His Second Act at Swords to Plowshares,” it highlights some of Steven’s remarkable accomplishments and includes his reflections about his experiences and what he has learned from them.  Congratulations, Steven!  It is wonderful to celebrate you and all that you do!


steven bAt Swords to Plowshares, we don’t just encourage other employers to hire veterans. We’ve hired and worked with plenty of veterans ourselves. In fact, more than 40 percent of our current staff are veterans, many of whom first set foot inside our doorsteps as a client in need.

For Steven Bradley, a California native who recently joined our team as an AmeriCorps VISTA, the journey getting here was long and arduous. At the tender age of five, he lost his whole family and was raised in a series of foster homes until joining the Navy at age 17.

“Because that happened at such a young age, I was destroyed, unfocused, and made numerous misguided choices. You don’t know why you have pain and no one can explain it to you, and all you want is the pain to stop,” Bradley says today.

Having served in the Navy from 1976 to 1980 as a Hospital Corpsman, Bradley’s military service gave him a sense of pride and belonging. Once he got out, however, he lost his way and fell prey to substance abuse—a battle against crack cocaine that lasted more than 20 years and led him to the brink of suicide.

“That was the hardest struggle to overcome—myself. My emotions and the places they take you, choices we make in trying to alleviate pain,” Bradley says. “There had been a lot of attempts and re-attempts to quit, a few years of clean time here and there. The bottom line is not acquiescing to defeat. But getting to that point, it was necessary to face myself over the question of suicide. I had determined a manner and selected a location. I went to the spot to consider…then concluded I wasn’t going to do it, even though life sucked then. I reflected on what I gained from military service as a Corpsman and used examples of the Marines I cared for, and that was to drive on, one foot in front of the other, regardless of the temporary conditions. I had to do something else.”

In Bradley’s case, “something else” meant relocating to Vermont, now his second favorite state in the U.S. Over the years he had worked a string of odd jobs—fishing in Alaska, construction work, dock work as a stevedore—always the wanderer and adventurer. The relocation coupled with his own increasing maturity helped him to focus constructively.

“Mostly, I didn’t know who I was or that I could even create that image for myself. I started many things but wasn’t focused on any one thing. I was living in the immediate as opposed to viewing the continuum of life,” Bradley says. “But when I look back nearly 40 years later, the connection that’s pivotal is me selecting the job as Hospital Corpsman. That now tells me more about who I am. I care for the herd of humanity.”

Today Bradley is on track to earn his B.S. in Human Services from Notre Dame de Namur University later this spring. Meanwhile at Swords to Plowshares, as a Veteran Employment Research & Outreach Associate, Bradley is hard at work researching projects and proposals for our Combat to Community program as well as building relationships with veteran affinity groups in industries such as healthcare.

“Personally I love (Swords to Plowshares). The working style matches my style, plenty of self-direction. There’s assistance and guidance when you need it but not over supervised.”

At 58, Bradley is older than the typical recent college grad who joins AmeriCorps. But it doesn’t deter him—if anything he finds it inspiring to work both for and alongside fellow veterans.

“I like to think I was able to re-establish myself by using the mindset and training methods first instilled during my military service,” Bradley says. “My complaint with the civilian world is there’s not that sense of shared purpose or comradery. With vets we understand the same rules and conditions. Just like in the military, there’s a lot of prep work followed by an event, with all hands on deck ’til the job is done.”

With the aim to one day become a veteran peer specialist, Bradley aspires to perform the same kind of caregiving in social work that he did in the Navy.

“To go through a bunch of stuff in your life and come out on your feet, and work yourself from that undesirable situation to productive citizenship; that’s where I can support other people going through addiction. By being a friend, and being willing to walk with someone as they’re working to find their way back to civilization.”

by Brian Jarvis

Photo and text courtesy Swords to Plowshares

Student Spotlight: Martha Montiel’s Capstone Success

MarthaMYou may have recently seen the NBC News report about Heidi Boynton, the Santa Cruz area mom and cancer survivor who completed the equivalent of eight half marathons over eight days to promote her nonprofit, the Mini Mermaid Running Club.  What you may not know is that NDNU Human Services student Martha Montiel was behind much of the promotion of her work, taking on this support as her capstone project.  Check out the NBC News report; well done, Martha!  (Heidi is pretty inspiring, too!)

Breaking News: NDNU’s 2015 Commencement Speaker

JakeIs none other than Jake Wilkerson!  Jake is an excellent student, part of our Human Services program, and if you’ve been in class with him you’ll remember him by his thoughtful input in discussions and great work, both that in the classroom and that he engages in the community and shares in class contributions.  Jake was recently hired as a firefighter by the North County Fire Authority, an extremely competitive position.    I’m sure that they are thrilled to have him working for them.

We are so proud that he will be representing the undergraduates at commencement on May 9!  Congratulations, Jake!


Photo courtesy

Student Spotlight: Mario de Leon

Mario class Human Services student Mario de Leon recently started his own business, running a martial arts studio.  He’s got a third degree black belt himself and experience training in Brazilian Jujitsu, wresting, Muy Thai, boxing, Hapkido, and Escrima stick fighting.  With 25 years of training experience and 18 years of teaching experience, his students are in good hands.  He reported that he has contracts to bring his services to several schools in the Santa Clara area.

Hurrah!  We love to cheer for student’s entrepreneurial successes!


Photo courtesy Mario de Leon






Student Spotlight: Maria Sanchez’ Art Show

Maria AStudent, mother, researcher, artist, community organizer, advocate, and all-round Renaissance woman Maria Sanchez is having an art reception tonight as part of a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Here are the details:

Antologia of the Arts and Global America gladly invite you to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Antologia where the art by a Latin American artist Maria Sanchez will be on display from August 24th till September 27th.  

Come to her Open Night reception, enjoy her art meet the artist September 5th from 6pm to 9pm and taste the delicious Latin American wine that Antologia has for you on this special month of the year.


Antologia Vinoteca
515 Broadway St
San Francisco, CA 94133

Hope to see you there!

Fun Morgan Hill Event to Raise Scholarship Money


Human Services Senior Mona Franciscus is working with the Morgan Hill Lion’s Club to raise money for student scholarships.  She’s hosting an event that sounds like a lot of fun… see attached flyer (Lions Club Fundraiser 8) and details below:

Saturday and Sunday, March 29th and 30th

11AM – 5PM

@ Morgan Hill Cellars

1645 San Pedro Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA

This is a free event; the Lion’s Club will be selling desserts on the patio to raise money.  The desserts have been donated by Ladera Grill, Booksmart, and Morgan Hill Cellars and there will be live music from 1-5 by The Four Hearts (Sat) and Fathead Eric and the Surf Riders (Sun).

If you need an excuse to travel south, this sounds like  a great one.  Good luck, Mona, with this cool project!


Image courtesy


Happy Veteran’s Day

another va

We honor all veterans on this day, especially the students, faculty, and staff who are part of our community who are veterans or family members of veterans.  A quick glance at the NDNU website shows an array of resources available and today is a great opportunity to honor veterans by highlighting these services:

Our students provide support too!  Check out this article, written as part of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” series that profiles women who make a difference as Human Services student Maria Sanchez shares the story that inspired her to start a group that supports veteran families.  Called Military Esposa, it contains practical information and inspiration that sustains.

Finally, this is also a great opportunity to honor again student Sheila Aube, who received an award from the California State Assembly last summer for her service.  We are so impressed!

Our gratitude for all who have served and the families who have made such great sacrifices.

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