Carlos sat across from me, somewhat shy and yet somehow also curious—about what I’m not sure, maybe our conversation. I hadn’t told him much only that I worked for RYAA and I was wondering if I could interview him for both the blog and the newsletter. He readily agreed.
He is almost seventeen and will be a senior this year. This summer he will be an intern in RYAA’s LEAD program. The LEAD (Leadership, Education And Development) program for high school students that spans six weeks in the summer. In the morning the interns will attend classes as well educational and career exposure trips and in the afternoon they run and coach sport programs for kids. The program is suppose to empower the East Palo Alto high school students with a better understanding of the opportunities and work necessary to excel after graduation while simultaneously forcing them to exercise their leadership skills while working with children.
Carlos and I began our conversation with soccer. He likes soccer. A lot!
I got the feeling that he was pretty good at it as well though he remained adamantly humble throughout our time together. I discovered that he plays with a nationally ranked team and that he derives great pleasure in just practicing by himself.
Soccer was the reason Carlos heard about RYAA and he began playing when he was younger. He befriended Shannon and over the years kept in contact. This last year he coached 10 year old soccer for RYAA. Of his experienced he reflected.
“I loved training those kids. They improved so much and we even got really, really close to the finals.”
He stated that his kids learned a lot about teamwork one day when one of them had been made fun of after tripping over. He gave the team a pep-talk followed by a serious conversation. “I was surprised that they were willing to be serious and listen.” Carlos beamed with pride. He described how the next game the kid who fell helped the team go from 1-0 to 1-2, and win the game in the last two minutes.
I asked Carlos what he was looking forward to at LEAD. He responded with some profoundly wise words. He said that the was looking forward to meeting new people, but also that he was looking forward to new experienced with the kids and listening and hearing what their life was like. This, he explained, “would help me to remember my own memories and past, which would in turn help me to better help me give them advice and support in their life and learning goals.” Here I sat back in my chair and listened as Carlos talked about the importance of listening to younger children and how that simple act along can empower them in getting ahead.
By this point in our conversation, it was evident to me that our discussion of his life and the moments of maturity had excited Carlos. He was much more open and engaged . When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Carlos was quick with a response.
“I want to become an engineer.”
Preferably at UCLA he adds. He described how programing robots as well as designing and then, launching rockets had inspired him. Learning math and attending the NASA step program at Moffett Field had given him a passion for technology and technology.
By the end of our time together, I too found myself inspired by Carlos’ story and ambitions. He cares about kids and wants to help his community. He has big dreams and is willing to put in the hard work and discipline necessary to work towards them. Without a doubt I am sure that his time with LEAD will be a time for him to perfect his leadership skills and gain necessary knowledge and skills to prepare for his future.