The People First Alliance (PFA) is an employee-led LIFE Group at Nutanix that promotes the awareness, acceptance, community, and accessibility of neurodiverse people. To celebrate the PFA group which was founded last year, we’re talking with group members to understand why they’re passionate about celebrating people with diverse abilities and raising awareness and support for people with a range of abilities—both at Nutanix and within our communities.
Recently, we spoke with Daniel Hinojosa, who joined the Nutanix team in 2017. He is a Staff Technical Account Manager on the Sales Operations side of the house and is also a father and a proud member of PFA.
How does the People First Alliance support you and the community?
When family and friends of people with special needs share our stories of challenge, great effort, great joy, and success, we can encourage others in similar situations, as well as those without these experiences, to be more sensitive to this community and to open their hearts to embrace differences.
Can you share some of the challenges that you and your family are navigating?
My son Samuel has Down syndrome and has had 2 open heart surgeries, one at 7 months, the other at 15 years old. We struggled with him having to step down as a Service Specialist (grocery bagger) at a local grocery store where he worked due to the health risks associated with COVID-19. Science has shown that people with Down syndrome have a higher mortality rate from COVID-19, so going with our instincts was the right choice. Luckily Samuel has not contracted any illness during the pandemic.
His manager at work was understanding and assured us that Samuel has a job when he is able to come back safely. Samuel loves his job and misses it dearly. He looks forward to going back to work as soon as possible. He got his vaccine at the end of March, so we are hopeful that it looks promising for his return.
What are some of the local communities or resources that you rely on?
The City of San Jose Department of Recreation, has a program for adults with special needs called the “Around the Town Club,” which meets every other week. Before the pandemic the group met in person to get together for outings to the movie theatre, mini-golfing, restaurants, and more. Since the pandemic, the group moved to meetings on Zoom. This resource is an excellent one that Samuel loves. When they get back together in person, it’s going to be a party! After lockdown, we found a new virtual social group for Samuel to engage with called the Shupin Social Club. Samuel has made new friends and looks forward to these sessions. The group meets twice weekly and hosts sessions on cooking or art, led by instructors who keep the special needs of the members top of mind. It has helped Samuel to feel connected to others and we are grateful.
Daniel (second from right) and his family
How are you and your family changing because of the challenges associated with COVID-19?
Before lockdown, Friday nights were date nights for my wife and I. With COVID, we now do Friday night movie nights and game nights on Tuesdays. Both have brought us closer as a family. We will know the impact after things get back to some normalcy. These family nights may have worked against Samuel’s independence, or on the other hand, he may just pick up where he left off.
Samuel has continued his workouts with his trainer, virtually at first and now moving to weekly sessions, outdoors, and with a mask. The whole last year has been emotionally hard for him. We’re hopeful that getting back to his pre-pandemic activities won’t be too tough a transition.
Daniel’s son Samuel enjoys bodybuilding
Can you leave us with some guidance for how people can better show up for you and Samuel?
Cultivating understanding is important. Words like “retard” and “retarded” hurt. The condition of our families has been tough in the best cases, and tragic in many others. Just because my son may look different, it does not make him different. Samuel loves to dance salsa, to cook, and is a body builder. You can just talk to him just like anyone else. If he needs an explanation of something, explain it. Check his understanding and carry on.
Thank you to Daniel, Samuel and the Hinojosa family for sharing their story with us. To learn more about the People First Alliance and our other Nutanix LIFE groups, visit: https://www.nutanix.com/company/diversity
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