Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune File Photo
Madera South’s Tiffany Diaz, still in uniform receives her Kenny Taylor Athlete of Integrity award along with Madera’s Lenny Pedraza in 2012. Representing the Madera F.A.N. are Staci Martines, left, and Bill Dawson, right.
When Tiffany Diaz was named the Kenny Taylor Athlete of Integrity by the Madera F.A.N. organization in 2012, she really wasn’t sure what it was about.
However, in the eight years since, she has realized that she has always tried to hold herself to what the award stood for — integrity to the highest standard.
“At the time, receiving the award it was not fully explained to me,” she said. “It was having the integrity, to do the right thing, and be true to yourself. That’s definitely how I hold myself and did at the time. I think everybody else realized it before I did.”
Diaz accepted the award fresh from pitching in a game earlier in the day. She received the award, along with Madera’s Lenny Pedraza.
“I came in looking terrible, super sweaty and covered in dirt,” she said. “I remember walking in with my parents and we were super late. I had gum in my mouth and there was a sign that said no gum was allowed. I had to go outside and spit it out, but my parents were complaining because we were already late.”
Diaz, a three-sport athlete (volleyball soccer and softball) 2012 Madera South graduate. She attended UC Santa Barbara and graduated in 2016. However, a change in direction still finds her in school today.
“My major was sociology with a minor in applied psychology,” she said. “However, that’s not what I went in with. My plan was to get a biology degree, go to med school and become a surgeon. Chemistry classes were not my friend. I tried and tried. My sophomore year came around. I was still trying to push for a bio degree. It just so happened, during that year, that I was going to keep pushing and take summer school. Then, the shootings happened. Three of my sorority sisters were involved in that. It affected me greatly. I spoke to the bio department and told them I can’t be here during the summer. I don’t feel safe. I couldn’t do it. I was going to withdraw from those classes over the summer. They basically told me either you were going to be a bio major or not. I guess I won’t be a bio major. That was the pivotal point to changing. During that summer of 2014, I went home, stayed with my sister and reevaluated on what I was going to do. I landed on sociology.”
However, after graduation, Diaz realized counseling youngsters was fine, but she found another calling — nursing.
“After I graduated, I moved to Roland Heights and lived with my big sis from my sorority,” she said. “I found a job in Oxnard and I moved there, which was with crisis counseling. I did mental health and crisis counseling kids ages 6-17. While I was there, I worked with a bunch of nurses. I found out I was interested in nursing. I thought it could be cool. I never thought about that because I had the one-track mind of med school, surgeon, done. All the nurses that I worked with said they loved it.”
She was referred to a volunteer program called Health Scholars where she went through a rigorous application process, 30 hours of pre-training and had to pass a test just to volunteer.
“It was intense, but it was awesome,” she said. “I was told that if I was thinking about it, then get my feet wet, first. I fell in love with nursing. That’s what I wanted to do. While I was working in Oxnard and Camarillo, I was taking classes at the community colleges for some prerequisites. I went to Ventura, Oxnard and Moorpark. They are kind of connected. I even went to Santa Barbara City College for an anatomy course.”
After switching to work with adults living with schizophrenia in her crisis counseling job, Diaz found an accelerated nursing program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
“It’s a 12-month, rigorous and fast program,” she said. “I’m in the thick of it. The plan is to come out on May 8 next year. I would have my bachelor’s of science in nursing and take the test to become a registered nurse.”
However, Diaz’s parents, who were at every game during her athletics career, weren’t too happy about her going to Wisconsin and continue schooling.
“My dad is telling me to figure it out,” she said. “I told him, ‘I’m sorry you raised a smart cookie that wants to keep learning and going to school.’ My parents were telling me why I was so far. We can’t get to you. You’re in the middle of the United States. I told them I was five hours away when I was in Southern California, but my dad said I was still in the state.”
While Diaz was busy at Madera South by serving as the ASB President and playing three sports, she found a lot of down time at UC Santa Barbara.
“I was super bored because I wasn’t playing sports,” she said. “I was so busy during my high school years. I was taking honors and AP courses and every evening was playing something. I had time to fill during college. It was also adjusting to college and being out there. It was like, ‘I only have classes? This is weird.’ I did a summer program for UCSB and started in August. I took classes beforehand to get used to everything. I found out about sororities. Natasha Ibrahim told me to go through recruitment to see what it was about and I ended up getting into a sorority.
“I retired (when I got to UCSB), then, I thought about going and playing. My dad and pitching coach told me to try to be a walk on. I didn’t think so. I wanted to try college without any sports. Obviously, I missed it. There were times I would come home from Santa Barbara and would have my dad catch and throw with me. It would kill my arm to no end because I wasn’t in conditioned. I took a beginning softball class over there just to get the feel of it and throw the ball around.”
Looking back. Diaz feels like she could have pushed herself more, but enjoys what she has accomplished.
“I think about how I should have pushed myself, for sure,” she said. “I think playing sports would have been a good thing to carry on into college. Recently, one of my co-workers tells me of the time she played softball. I wondered what that was like. I always think back on what everyone else is doing. That’s something we will find out in a couple of years when it comes to our 10-year reunion.”
Diaz was in the beginning stages of starting in Wisconsin when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and thought about postponing her schooling, but wanted to finish as soon as she can.
“I thought about postponing because of the pandemic,” she said. “My dad brought up the idea. I thought about it long and hard about making the move or not. I thought this is something I’ve been working on for two years by going to the colleges, taking the prereqs and doing all the stuff. This wasn’t a whim decision. This was the plan I was going for. I was going to do this and try for this. If not, I was going to be stagnate. I thought to push through it.”
In the end, when Diaz is finished in May with her degree, she will have a great story to tell.
“I made two or three turns, a U-turn, came back, went back and reversed,” she said. “I am definitely enjoying it.”