What ASA RISE Meant to Me as a Fellow

While I’ve been working in the field of aging for a while, I still knew I had a lot to learn from ASA RISE. Having had a previous career in which I had contact with more like-minded folks when it came to social justice issues, I was looking to connect intellectually and personally with colleagues who shared that passion.

ASA RISE did not disappoint. I enjoyed the reading and particularly the guest speakers, who all aligned with my beliefs about to whom (meaning which populations) and to what (meaning which critical areas) we in the field of aging should be paying more attention.

I am acting executive director at Meals on Wheels by ACC in Sacramento, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day necessities of operations, grant-writing, fundraising, and everything else that goes along with being part of a community-based organization. We get so focused on putting out fires or finding funding or meeting a grantor’s requirements that sometimes we don’t have the time to step back and think about, “Why am I in this field?” And “Whom do I want to serve?”

The answer for me has always been underserved communities of color: Older adults who have worked hard their whole lives and still do not have access to services that would help them age with dignity. While everyone I work with wants to help older adults, sometimes we disagree when it comes to defining who is most in need and which service should be prioritized.

The group project we conducted during the ASA RISE program, working with a senior center in Atlanta, was also a boon. It was an opportunity to work more closely with a few fellows and the staff from the senior center. I had experience directing a senior center for many years. So, it was intriguing to see firsthand how a center functions that is 3,000 miles from me. That was such a valuable experience, I hope the group project continues to be a facet of ASA RISE program.

I wouldn’t have made the time to read the articles or commit to weekly meetings If I hadn’t been in the program. It forced me in a good way to make the time.

And I met and befriended a cohort of folks who think like me. At the 2023 On Aging conference, when we met fellows from the previous year, they told my cohort, “You are now members of the ASA RISE family.” That was perhaps the most unexpected thing about the program. Many of us found each other.

I had attended ASA’s On Aging conference for many years and, while I had made a few friends, I had never found a family. The ASA RISE program made us a family. One of the best moments for me came when longtime aging advocate and social worker Velma Carter-Dryer spoke about her “rage” for the way the needs of BIPOC people in the community have not been addressed. Luckily, Velma is my assigned mentor for the fellowship. I know I can always contact her when I have a question or concern, or even if I just need to vent. That’s another big benefit of the fellowship.

Finally, one of my favorite benefits is the inspiration we receive from being ASA fellows. Former Interim President & CEO of ASA and RISE Advisor Cynthia Banks would end each session with an inspirational quote from a well-known public figure. At the end of the year in the program, we received a compilation of these quotes, and this is one of my favorites. Such a favorite it is posted in my office:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

–Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Linda Revilla, PhD, is acting executive director of Meals on Wheels by ACC in Sacramento, Calif., and an ASA RISE alum from the class of 2022.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Carlo Prearo