I come from Apache heritage on my father’s side. I grew up in Compton, but my family moved to Orange County during the Watts riots when I was in second grade. I went from a black community to a white community. This transition was a defining moment in my life, influencing my choice to use my organizational skills to help the Native American community.
John Castillo (HOD '00) is the Executive Director of Walking Shield Inc., a non-profit organization based in Lake Forest, CA that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for American Indian families.
"While I was a graduate student, Fielding’s unique learning opportunities supported my efforts to create and sustain these successful collaborations—and continue to influence my work at Walking Shield," said Dr. Castillo.
John's goal is “to work on a statewide initiative to build a pipeline for Native American students to attend college.
"For Native Americans, there is a 50% high school dropout rate. My vision for the future is to improve that statistic and work on a statewide initiative to build a pipeline for Native American students to attend college," he added.
Dr. Castillo, works closely with tribal leaders to develop and sustain programs that provide shelter, healthcare, community development support, educational assistance, and humanitarian aid to Native American communities.
Walking Shield is collaborative effort that engages American Indians and the U.S. Military in a unique partnership. Through a special program called Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), military personnel apply their talents to rebuild and strengthen American Indian communities through healthcare assistance and infrastructure support. Since IRT’s inception in 1994, Walking Shield has provided training missions for the military on American Indian reservations where conditions often mimic those in third world countries.
True collaboration is a unique art form. All partners commit to common goals and objectives, work together to achieve these goals, utilize each other’s expertise, and create a win-win situation for all. Our collaboration meets these criteria. Before efforts begin, all parties agree to the goals and objectives to be achieved. Throughout the military deployment, members of the tribe work side by side with the troops, combining their efforts to achieve success. Walking Shield mitigates any problems that arise.
All partners use their talents and skills to meet the goals within a predetermined time frame. Most importantly, everyone wins. The tribe may get new roads, homes, water wells, electrical lines, or much needed healthcare assistance.
The military gets to utilize its skills and talents, which enhance deployment readiness and promotes retention. Walking Shield wins by meeting its mission—to improve the quality of life on reservations.
Dr. Castillo has taught graduate courses in social work as well as undergraduate courses on Indian Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He has published several articles about American Indians and is a sought out speaker at functions across the country. With decades of experience in program coordination and a Ph.D. in Organizational Development (Fielding), Dr. Castillo is fully dedicated to improving the quality of life on American Indian reservations. For more information about John's work, please visit www.walkingshield.org