It’s been close to 20 years since Stevie Cordoza and Hank Walter first crossed paths. A journey which began so long ago for the OHS 2012 Alumni that when asked, they almost don’t recall a time they didn’t know one another.
A friendship, which began in preschool and remains as strong as ever as the two 20-somethings continue the post college chapters of their lives.
“It started at Rockey’s Rainbow Rompers,” Cordoza recalled of their first meeting.
“We met in pre-school, but I don’t think we really started hanging out until we were in first grade,” Walter added.
“That’s where the true ‘love affair’ started,” Cordoza stated in a tongue in cheek fashion, both noting while they have remained best friends throughout the years, a romance is not a part of their relationship.
“It’s more a familial thing,” Walter said. “We’re more like siblings.”
Both Cordoza and Walter graduated from college in the summer of 2016. Cordoza earned her Bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in business with a minor in pre-law and Walter from University of Dallas with a liberal arts major in Anthropology.
While a lifelong friendship is special at any age, what’s most interesting about the co-ed best friends is their post college path.
Later this year Cordoza will report to Atlanta, Georgia for training as a selected applicant in the Teach for America program. Following training she will spend two years in Charlotte, North Carolina teaching freshman math at a high school in a low income community. The school site has yet to be determined.
“I didn’t realize it was my dream job until I started going through the application process,” Cordoza said of the service organization, noting nervousness following her interview, as only 10 to 15 percent of applicants are accepted.
“It’s such a great opportunity the things I’m going to learn in just these two years,” she said.
During her two year commitment, Cordoza will also pursue her teaching credential as well as her Master’s degree. While she admitted to being a bit apprehensive about teaching math and relocating far from home, she’s also embracing the opportunity.
“It’s a great opportunity being a woman in a STEM field,” she said, adding that contact with past program participants was helpful in easing her nerves. “A lot of these kids don’t see that and don’t think of it as a possibility.
“If you can do one thing for one kid it’s worth it, right?” she said.
Now six months into his service assignment, Walter has lived that statement first hand.
Walter is currently serving with a non-profit in Washington D.C. as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member.
“I helped organize a writing workshop for ninth graders in D.C.,” Walter noted of one of his assignments, “where they did a feminist analysis of Beyonce’s Lemonade album.”
Walter works with nonprofit 826DC, which is dedicated to supporting inner city students from ages six to 18 with creative and expository writing skills.
Eventually, the OHS alum shared, he would like to get involved with public health, remaining in an urban area and continuing to help the under privileged.
“I want to be part of the movement that is able to provide equity for people that are often overrun and overlooked by the system,” he said.
“When I think of Hank and his career, I don’t see him in a big high rise in a CEO job,” Cordoza said of her best friend. “He’d rather be low income, working on the ground. That’s so much more fulfilling to him than anything else and he’s always been like this.”
In agreement with Cordoza, the D.C. volunteer notes his family’s dedication to service, as well as his own life experience as credit to where he feels most at home helping the less fortunate.
“I think this town has given me so much in preparation,” he said. “Having a good teacher, a good coach, some mentor that has committed their life to fostering good people in this town.”
Noting a past OHS vice principal as stating, ‘small town kids have the biggest dreams.’
“I think that’s because we were raised to have almost an innocence,” he said. “We’ve been uplifted in a community like Oakdale.”
As she prepares for her next chapter and all it entails, Cordoza echoes Walter’s words and sentiments.
“This community has given us a sense of confidence, that I can do anything,” she said. “No one ever told me that I couldn’t do something I wanted to do. Even though I’m realistic and aware, I still have that sense of I can do whatever it is I want to do, which is really invaluable.”
As for the future beyond the coming couple of years, both agree the story remains to be told.
“My mom used to always say if you want to make God laugh, make long term plans,” Walter shared. “It’s about doing what you can, where you are.”