Jesús Andrade and the Promise of a Returning Generation 

Independent Small Businessman and Stockton City Council Candidate, Jesús Andrade’s experiences growing up in South Stockton tell a tale of two cities. One is living in a rough neighborhood, filled with violence, blighted buildings and areas you could not enter – not an optimistic place for a kid to live. The other is of a loving family centered around his parents - Rafael and Maria de Jesus - and a large close-knit extended family filled with people who came from Jaripo, Michoacán, the same humble Mexican town his parents came from. Their love of community, their faith in God, devotion to family, and a belief in the power of education were the foundation on which the Andrade family was built.
Since his childhood, not a lot has changed.  Schools have improved slightly, but are still not where they should be, and violence has always been cyclical in this part of town. But a new generation of South Stockton natives have decided to lay down roots in their hometown and better their community. They went away to college, found careers and with a world of possibilities, they came back home. “What has changed is you have all these kids who went away to college, have families and then decided to come back here, to live in the old neighborhood – it’s a recent phenomenon,” Andrade says looking out over his old neighborhood with a big smile on his face. He’s smiling because he is one of those kids who weren’t just back home to live; they were back home to make a change.
“My heart has always been here,” Jesús says. “Through the years while I was in college and through my early career working across the country – my passion for the city was always present. My heart never left Stockton.”  Jesús’ family roots reflect the history of the Central Valley.  In the 1920’s, his great-grandfather migrated here during summers to help finance the building of his home in Mexico.  Later his grandfathers would work as Braceros. Then, Jesús’ father followed and started a company that has trained and managed hundreds of migrant workers for cherry and tomato harvests all across the Central Valley.
The first in his family to attend college, Jesús enrolled at Sacramento State University where he served as Student Body President and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy in 2007.  A public policy fellowship in the California State Assembly would follow, and then Jesús was hired by NCLR to focus on economic development and education initiatives statewide in California.  This eye opening experience led Jesús to join the team at StudentsFirst, and then the California Charter School Association, where he educated parents and students about the barriers to education reform and what they could do to change the system that was failing kids across the state.
Today, Jesús has founded Andrade Strategies, a small consulting firm focused on improving educational outcomes for kids in his old neighborhood and on creating new economic development opportunities in South Stockton.
“South Stockton has a very large immigrant community that has only grown bigger over the last 20 plus years.  And, we have to do a much better job of integrating our immigrant communities into the city and county’s mainstream economic and political systems. About a third of the city’s population is foreign born, and we have to do a much better job of including them in the process,” Andrade says as he canvases the neighborhoods talking with immigrant and African American voters.  “But, first we need to secure the basics. About a hundred thousand people live south of the cross-town freeway and all we have is just one major pharmacy, one full service supermarket, and no emergency health care facility. These are signs that do not point to a thriving community.”
The issues involving South Stockton are complex and diverse.  “Trying to change the culture here, it’s going to take some work.  The neighborhood no longer has the grass roots efforts they had in the 60’s and 70’s.”  But maybe that is not completely true, and maybe Jesús Andrade is not giving himself enough credit. This summer, he spearheaded a large community survey initiative that yielded over 200 surveys from residents, and that lead to the top five choices residents want in place of the recently shuttered New Grand Save Market.  “It’s always been one of those places that you never went to,” Andrade said about the liquor store that’s been notorious for violence, filth and nearly 20 years of prostitution and drug sales just outside. The community has long wanted the store closed.
“Now, it looks like the site will be turned into something beneficial and positive for the community. Our goal is to turn that site into something that will be a place of healing and not destruction like it’s been for all these years,” Andrade notes, knowing that this is an opportunity that cannot be missed to revitalize South Stockton, and the Airport Way Corridor specifically.
“Maybe the secret to moving Stockton towards a much brighter future is not only in city planning but in bringing back that sense of neighborhood, where people felt responsible to one another.” Creating a South Stockton that is thriving, self-sufficient, community-driven, neighborhood-centric, and economically independent is the goal of Jesús Andrade.
“I was blessed to be raised, here, in South Stockton.  My parents and community have given me so much.  The turning points in my life have started here in Stockton. A major turning point was when I was accepted to the TLC (Teaching and Learning Community) program at Franklin High, where I also had the opportunity to play starting Quarterback for the Yellow Jackets under the late Coach Verner. My experiences at Franklin taught me leadership, teamwork and the values you needed to work with others for a common goal.”
And his plans if elected?  “The first year will be working on the foundational projects that will allow the community to grow, including a health care facility, more grocery stores, restaurants and housing.  You have to have the basics.  That way, people don’t need to leave the community for their essential needs.”  And what happens next?
“Then, hopefully lenders and investors will begin to have confidence in the area once again. I want to create the environment where financial institutions and foundations will be more willing to award loans and grants to entrepreneurs in the community that can use their creativity to open their own small businesses, expand existing businesses, and who want to launch their own initiatives to rebuild their neighborhoods. I want people to think of South Stockton – and I include downtown in this vision – as a place where people aren’t scared to go anymore, but go to for all the rich cultural experiences this community has to offer.  There are good people here, there’s a lot of passion, creativity, and plenty of entrepreneurs who just need a chance and some support to turn this place around.”
For Jesús Andrade, Councilman or not, he has a vision for South Stockton. His realized dream to close a community stain – New Grand Save - and redevelop an old commercial corridor is just a first step. Jesús is determined to make Stockton a better place for his and his neighbors families. “I am proud to be raising my family here and look forward to working with my fellow neighbors.  I have tremendous faith that we can turn things around.”

Mark Apostolon

Mark Apostolon has been a professional writer for 40 years, beginning his career as a newspaper reporter and columnist. r. Apostolon has received three Emmy’s as well as has the Cine Golden Eagle, multiple regional and national awards plus 22 Emmy nominations.

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