“The past year has been the most remarkable experience of my life,” exclaims Donna Barranco Fisher, the executive director of Storyteller Children’s Center, which is a free preschool for homeless and at-risk Santa Barbara kids aged 18 months to five years old. “After children are done with our program, they’ve been completely transformed,” Donna tells me passionately about the center, which includes two separate sites and fosters social and emotional development.
I have met Donna on different occasions, since she is one of the most involved and devoted community members. The list of nonprofits that have benefitted for her commitment is lengthy, including Transition House, CALM, Girls Inc., Jodi House, Hospice of Santa Barbara, and the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, where she’s currently the board chair. But the job at Storyteller is tailor-made for Donna’s amazing skills, which she honed through getting a Master’s degree in early childhood education from Mills College and a bachelor’s degree in child development from Chico State.
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of her work, she gets emotional, explaining, “The children that leave the Storyteller Children’s Center will be part of the community instead of on the outside looking in.” The center will be holding an open house on June 30.
Here Donna answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I experienced a lot of “loss” in my early adult life. The fact that I can work hard and make changes after going through what I went through is itself a gift. In other words, being able to continue to live and move forward with my life.
What is your motto?
In my professional work, it is: “Do what is in the best interest of Storyteller and their families.” In my personal life, it is: “Breathe.”
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
I dislike people who are dishonest, judge others, and cannot empathize. I also dislike people who don’t want to come to resolution, if there is a problem.
What do you most value in friends?
My friends are open and honest with me, and will always have my back. I share long friendships with many of my childhood friends, to this day. In my years in Santa Barbara, through my associations with nonprofits, I have met many people who feel lucky to live in such a beautiful space as I do; they want to give back to their community. I consider them valuable friends, too!
What do you like most about your job?
I love the fact that I get to spend time with children; it is never a dull moment! They are curious and eager to learn. The children are a constant reminder why I do the work I do. If I am having a tough day, the children will always make me smile! The people with whom I work are the hardest workers I have ever witnessed; they truly care about the well-being of our children and families.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I feel most happy when I am relaxed, and spending time with those whom I love. I also love to read!
Who do you most admire?
The Dalai Lama. Words won’t do him justice.
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
My mind is stuck in “get it done, get it done!”
What is the quality you most like in people?
I love people who are approachable, non-judgmental, and honest.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My red hair?!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I hope I don’t use any words or phrases too much; if I had to choose one, it might be, “With that being said….”
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to fluently speak different languages.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The ability to make change, without hesitation, fear, or “over-thinking” it.
Where would you most like to live?
I feel very lucky to live here. If I couldn’t live in Santa Barbara, I would live in Italy.
What is your most treasured possession?
What makes you laugh the most?
Good, thoughtful comedy (films, performances), not the silly stuff.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Some may not consider her “historical,” but I identify with Frida Kahlo.
On what occasion do you lie?
I will use a “white lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.