Alumnus and new Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn sworn in at Sac State

A week after being sworn in as Sacramento’s 45th police chief – and the first African American to lead the force – Daniel Hahn ’95 (Marketing) is comfortably settled into his new office at the city’s Public Safety Center, 5770 Freeport Blvd.

He has surrounded himself with photographs of his wife and two daughters, as well as his collection of Oakland Raiders memorabilia. A football player Herky bobblehead has a prominent spot amid the keepsakes.

It’s long been a tradition for Sacramento police chiefs to be sworn in at City Council chambers. Hahn chose instead to have his ceremony in the University Union Ballroom at Sac State, his alma mater. More than 1,000 people witnessed the joyous event.

“The council chambers wasn’t big enough, and I wanted to have it out in the community, as opposed to downtown, because we need to include all of our neighborhoods as we move forward as a city,” Hahn says. “Downtown is extremely important, and it’s really the hub of the city, but I wanted to give a little love to the neighborhoods. And I’m from Sac State.”

There was green and gold and plenty of blue in the University Union on Aug. 11 as Hahn was officially sworn in. Family, friends, law enforcement officers, and other guests were on hand for the occasion, including Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Hahn was sworn in as chief surrounded by his wife, his daughters, and his adoptive mother. In his remarks, he talked about growing up in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, the importance of community, and returning to the campus where he earned his degree.

“I can’t think of too many places that are more important to our city, and our community, and our youth, and the future of our community, than my alma mater, Sac State,” Hahn said.

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Once an ESL student, recent graduate begins her career as ESL teacher at Sac State

The daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Hannan Hawari MA ’17 (TESOL) grew up speaking Arabic, was placed in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom at an early age, and received early lessons about the importance of how not knowing a language can be a barrier to opportunity.

“I felt that barrier when I was younger and when I was growing up,” she says. “A lot of times, when I was with my mom, she wouldn’t have the right words to negotiate something on the phone, or ask about something at the store. It seemed like language was a very powerful tool.”

Today, she’s helping international students in Sacramento State’s English Language Institute (ELI) overcome that barrier, serving as an instructor and teaching American Language and Culture. ELI, run through Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education, offers several programs throughout the year to help international students become stronger English speakers and learn about American culture to prepare them for study at a four-year college or university in the United States – often Sacramento State. Hawari also has spent time leading ELI’s Conversation Clubs, weekly meet-ups where ELI students can practice their language skills with Sac State students.

“Language is very powerful,” she says. “I feel like I’m giving them another tool. A powerful tool.”

Hawari grew up loving reading, writing, and school. A Stockton native, she earned her undergraduate degree in English literature at nearby University of the Pacific before enrolling at Sacramento State for her master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) – combining her lifelong passion for learning with her first-hand knowledge of the power of language.

She came to Sacramento State for the same reason many others do: access and opportunity. The University was nearby, affordable, and allowed her the flexibility to continue working. Plus, her brother already was at Sac State as an undergraduate. But the campus quickly became much more than a place to get a degree.

“I felt like (Sac State) was the place where I truly grew. There are a lot of services for students as well as a strong, inclusive community,” Hawari says. “It seemed to be a very diverse campus. There were a lot of people I felt were like me, who had the same struggle, and were first-generation college students. There seemed to be a real acceptance of that on this campus and it felt like a good environment to be in.”

Working at the University Writing Center and as an instructor for a first-year composition course provided her with real-world experience tutoring and teaching. She also worked off campus at a private learning center in Stockton and as an intern with ELI, where she also volunteered with Conversation Club.

“That was a wonderful program that helped me build my knowledge of how to teach ESL speaking and listening skills,” Hawari says. “It gave me valuable practice in classroom management and standing in front of the class.”

She ultimately was hired to teach summer courses with ELI and hopes to continue in the fall. Longer term, she plans to continue working with adult ESL students, perhaps at the K-12 level, or perhaps even abroad: Her bigger goal is to return to her parents’ home, Palestine, to teach English.

In the meantime, Hawari is cherishing the opportunity to share both her experience with the power of language and her passion for teaching and learning with students from across the globe.

“I feel like I’m a part of them because I’m kind of that in between where I’m not really American, I’m not really Arab,” she says. “I understand the struggle of coming to a different place and having to feel like a foreigner. They have their own culture and they’re excited to share it, but at the same time they’re excited to learn so much more about American culture. I just love the idea of teaching and being part of their language experience.”

Salon owners’ love story began at Sac State

Lorena Martinez ’07 (Accountancy) was a junior in high school and taking a tour of Sacramento State organized by the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) when something unexpected happened that would change her life: Her tour guide, a Sac State freshman named Alfonso ’08 (Computer Engineering), asked for her phone number.

“You meet a cute kid and you think, ‘He’s never going to call,’” Martinez says. “I really didn’t think much of it.”

A week later, however, Alfonso phoned her house. Soon they were talking daily, Alfonso making regular trips to Watsonville, where Lorena lived, for supervised dates. Eventually she joined him at Sacramento State. In 2008, they were married.

Fast-forward to today and just down the street from the campus where their story began, Lorena and Alfonso Martinez own the Colour Bar hair salon on J Street near Sac State. The venture combines Lorena’s lifelong love of hairstyling with Alfonso’s passion for entrepreneurship, but the road to being small business owners has been circuitous and often difficult.

Lorena and Alfonso Martinez 2001
Lorena and Alfonso Martinez in 2001.

The Martinezes have more in common than just Sacramento State. Both were born in Mexico and, as children, immigrated to the United States with their families. Both grew up in small California towns – Alfonso in Newman, outside of Merced, Lorena in Watsonville near Santa Cruz. Both spent part of their childhood working in the fields. And both say Sacramento State’s diversity, and the support offered through the CAMP program, were a large part of why they enjoyed their time on campus.

“I came from a small town, and Sacramento was a huge city,” Alfonso says. “But even though it was a change for me, I still felt very comfortable going to Sac State. The CAMP program helped us so much with feeling at home and being around people who we have similarities to, who have similar backgrounds – immigrant parents, working in the fields.”

Sacramento State also provided a “realistic” education, Lorena says, offering flexibility for students who needed to work while attending college and providing the practical skills, through internships and other opportunities, that would become essential upon entering the workforce.

After graduation, Lorena and Alfonso began working in their degree fields. Alfonso had a series of computer engineering jobs, and Lorena began working in the auditing department of a Bay Area accounting firm. But the deadline-driven, heavy workload environment quickly began to wear on her. On Thanksgiving 2009, as she looked at her BlackBerry baffled that she was receiving so many work-related emails on a holiday, she finally reached a breaking point.

“I was so stressed, and I remember having a meltdown and crying,” she says. “I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ because I just felt overwhelmed. (Alfonso) said, ‘You’ve got to do something.’ ”

That something ended up being taking a big risk: Quitting her job in the middle of a recession, moving back to Sacramento and, in a nod to her lifelong love of hairstyling, attending beauty school and, in October 2010, opening her own salon. That’s when her connections to her alma mater began paying off.

“All of my sorority sisters and my network from Sac State made my business work because they all knew me,” she says. “Once they started seeing my work, I had tons of clients from Sac State. Without Sac State and our experience and everybody there, The Colour Bar wouldn’t be where it is right now.”

Alfonso continued to work in computer engineering and on other projects, but gradually has become more and more involved in the business, including building its web and social media presence, as it has continued to grow and serves as its CEO. They expanded to a second location in Midtown Sacramento last year and also are changing how salon owners work with hairstylists. Rather than rent salon space and work as independent contractors, The Colour Bar’s stylists are employees and receive in-house training.

“We got professional development early on from mentorship groups, from CAMP, so we know how crucial it is to someone’s success,” Lorena says. “So we’re trying to change things a bit by creating a training program to grow our talent at the hair salon.”

The couple has kept its close connection to Sacramento State. Alfonso is president of the Sac State Latino Alumni Chapter. Lorena occasionally is invited by CAMP and other organizations to speak to students on topics related to careers and doing what you love.

As for advice the successful business owners have for current students? It sounds a lot like the advice they themselves have taken since graduating from Sac State.

“Figure out what makes you happy,” Alfonso says. “People should do what makes them happy and not what other people think you should do. Nothing matters if you’re not happy. Once you’ve decided on a career path, you have to work hard and always go the extra mile. Be patient with your success, it will come.”