Snapshot: Joe Rivera and Carlos Martinez

Founding members of Sunset Scholars Tutoring Cooperative

How did you first get into this work?

I was actually the youngest member in Sunset Scholars. What motivated me the most was my drive to help others and I guess one of the big causes was when  Jia Lin was telling us about the actual education problems within Sunset Park and how some kids are falling behind. While she talked about the Asian community, I already had some input about what the expectation was of Hispanics in this kind of environment. I heard a lot of kids say that they weren’t really motivated to go to college or college wasn’t really an option for them. – Carlos

My friend’s grandmother was a social worker at Center for Family Life and knew I was in education, so she suggested I go in. I liked the idea of unity and being my own boss and I am really into this old/new method of collaborative working. I just really liked it. – Joe

What does ‘Solidarity Economy’ mean to you?

Solidarity means all people working together to boost each other’s economic standing in the culture that we live in. It allows for economic and social growth and unity.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this work?

Adapting to the new standards of actual education, applying Common Core and all that stuff. When I was in school people were still iffy about it so it wasn’t implemented that much, but now kids come up with new methods of resolving at things and it gets complicated.  -Carlos

Finding clients that would trust a cooperative or understand how the model works. – Joe

What gaps in your work do you think could be filled cooperatively or through value chains?

Right now I feel like we are connected to a good amount of cooperatives. For example, we work with Golden Steps a lot because we provide services to them, New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, CUSP.- Carlos

I have a dream to own a building that is a co-op village, on the ground floor would be Sunset Scholars commercial property, but we also had office spaces that different organizations could rent or use. In the middle of the building would be housing co-ops and we would incorporate cooperative cleaning services, handyman services, and other things necessary to maintain the building. It would be a central hub for cooperatives and like-minded people. – Joe

Why do you think it is important for cooperatives to help other cooperatives?

Your words and thoughts are one thing, but your actions are another. We can say we value the cooperative principles, but if we don’t do that we aren’t really cooperating. We can be living examples of what can be accomplished when we help cooperatives.  – Joe

It feels nice, it feels like we are making a family. They know what it takes to do this, the ups and the downs. It is important to have somebody to look up to and say, we could be that big, we can take over the world. – Carlos

What is your ‘theory of change’? 

Change would consist of effort and people’s ability to put in a lot of work.- Carlos

I think change happens when you step out of your comfort zone—your way of thinking, your way of living. You can’t help but to retain some of what you just experienced. Cooperatives are outside of that comfort zone of hierarchy and having a boss and a capitalist mindset. But it’s also intuitive—sharing and making and talking about your feelings. But as we become adults, that shifts when we need to make a money. Cooperatives reward our roots through providing people their own business and being able to see your impact. – Joe

Do you see a role for youth involvement in your work?

Yes. The majority of our members are in the early stage of college or younger. Mostly with youth involvement, I guess we get a different perspective of how things are progressing. They are still in that kind of mode of school and it’s just different having people of different ages in one group and it balances each other out. – Carlos

We are educators so of course we need youth to be a part of it. Hopefully those that we tutor will become active in the movement because they see the cooperative model. We can stand as an example. – Joe

Where can we find more information about the work you are doing in the future?

Our website, talking with people around Sunset Park, CFL Newsletter, Facebook, and Instagram!

What is the best way for people to get involved and support your work?

Contracting with us, letting people know we exist, following us on social media, and if you are a client giving feedback!