Michael Aguilar was born and raised in the South Bay and currently resides in Sunnyvale. At 66 years old, Mike has the energy and enthusiasm of a person decades younger. His entire life reflects his zest for life, which is contagious to all around him. He has a great sense of humor but also is very serious about his paid and volunteer work. In the way Mike lives life and in his work, he naturally advocates for people with disabilities. His way of living demonstrates that each individual has abilities, and it really is only the abilities, not the disability, that makes the person.
Today, Mike has celebrated 13 years at his Safeway Courtesy Clerk job. Customers appreciate his help and have commented on what a great job he consistently does. He helps people find items in the store, carries out and bags groceries, and does store maintenance, go backs, cart collection and cleaning. His managers likewise value his work because he knows what he has to do and he does it. He’s independent so he doesn’t need to be managed closely.
Since volunteering is a big part of Mike’s life, he was a member of Abilities United Board of Directors from 2013 to 2016. As a board member, he represented the participants of Abilities United as well any community member with a disability or delay. Mike is also a member of the Abilities United Advocacy Group since it started in 2011.
The personal qualities that make Mike a good advocate are his willingness to help and pitch in; he wants to help people who are treated unfairly. He helps people of all ages and abilities in the numerous activities and organizations he is involved in, including his church where he also volunteers, Special Olympics where he is a gold medal athlete, and Abilities United where he is an advocate and participant.
As an Abilities United Board member, he shared information he learned at SARC Legislative events and encouraged the other board members to be involved on the legislative side of the funding. He taught the board how they can be more involved and advocate for the participants. He educated the board members about issues people with disabilities face on a daily basis. Issues they may not be aware of. He was, and continues to be the voice of the thousands of participants who use Abilities United services.
When asked why he joined the Abilities United Board and Advocacy Group, Mike stated; “I like meeting new people and working together to solve problems identified by the group. I can be a good advocate.”
Examples of Mike’s advocacy include:
- With the Advocacy Group, he organized a letter writing and telephone campaign to advocate for increased funding for disability services to avoid cutting or closing services.
- Phoning Gov. Brown’s office to request an increase of 10% funding for developmental services as submitted by Senator Beal.
- Fighting for improved crosswalk timing to make crossing the street safer for all children, seniors, people with disabilities, and others community members. The crosswalk timing light in front of Abilities United was not long enough to cross safely and the group set a goal is to have 5 seconds added to the timer. The result is the City of Palo Alto is going to redo the entire Charleston corridor crosswalk lights to make them safer.
- As a representative of the Board and Advocacy Group, Mike went to several SARC Legislative Lunches to learn more about government policies and budget cuts, and to get the bigger picture of state-wide disability service issues.
- Along with the Advocacy Group, Mike is working on a new initiative called “Equal pay for equal work”.
Mike’s natural ability to advocate and represent people with disabilities dates way back to his youth. He graduated from Lynbrook High School in San Jose where he was the football team manager and was a member of the varsity lettermen’s club.
As an adult, Mike joined Special Olympics and earned dozens of gold and silver medals in bowling, basketball, track and field. Despite his 64 years, he most often finds himself competing and keeping up with much younger athletes in their 30’s and 40’s and some in their twenties. He has traveled throughout Northern California to compete in events.
In addition to his passion for sports, Mike is also passionate about work. He’s worked all his life beginning at age 19 when he got his first job at McDonald’s. His entire career has been in food service and he worked at various restaurants until he was hired at Safeway.
He is also very active at Abilities United. In addition to being a member of the Board and the Advocacy Group, he also is in the Independent Living Skills program, Employment Services, and Computer Education program. He volunteers at the Abilities United Aquathon fundraiser and does setup and take down.
Mike joined his church in 2005 and volunteers many hours when he ushers, puts out the church bulletin, gives out communion, greets parishioners, and sets up tables, chairs, and food for events.
Mike has been independent his entire life and has lived in his own apartment for 3 decades. Though he doesn’t drive, he takes public transportation all over the Bay Area. He banks and pays his bills online, ships, cooks, cleans, and his quite health conscious.
Mike is a great role model for everyone. He is active in advocating for rights for people with disabilities, he lives a good, healthy life; is committed to his paid and volunteer work, and brings a wonderfully positive attitude to every activity in which he participates.