Saying Yes to Being CEO, Saying Yes to Youth Voice

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Our History, YLI is My Story

I started at YLI over 8 years ago. As a Program Coordinator, I worked with LGBTQ young people in Marin County to create safe spaces in schools through policy change. I knew then, like I know now, that this organization’s approach to change was something I wanted to be a part of – and that it would fundamentally transform how I show up as a leader.

Working at YLI has deepened my political consciousness and asked me to lead from an authentic place, which has pushed me to think about the intersections of my own identity. As YLI’s first queer, gender nonconforming, latinx Interim CEO, I am saying ‘YES’ to being a model for young folks and peers navigating the complexities of who they are as they step into leadership roles.

I said yes because others have said yes to me. I was raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey by immigrant parents from El Salvador. When my parents split up, I gained an incredible bonus parent in my step-father and step family who said yes to my queerness in a time when I felt lost and alone and needed to be accepted by family. 

After 5 years on academic probation, I appealed so that I could finish my one remaining college credit. The credit was a non-profit internship where I met Liz Amaya Fernadez and Patricia Teffenhart Maikos. They said yes to my potential, putting me in charge of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts on college campuses and on national platforms. 

I got married in Brattleboro, Vermont – one of the first states to allow same-sex marriage – to my partner, Allison. She is a homegrown Central Valley leader, advocate, social worker, teacher, and incredible co-parent. And most of all she is instrumental in ensuring that I don’t forget who I am, where I come from, and that my vision for this organization is deeply connected to my integrity as a leader. Together, we said yes to the Central Valley to lay down roots, raise our son, Myles, and build a future here.

Today and every day, the future depends on those most impacted leading the work to create healthy and just communities. In saying yes, I am embracing the opportunity to model leadership for all of the young people who are discovering their voices and their power.  

Join me in saying yes. 

Become a monthly sustainer, and help me to ensure that youth voice is heard. Loud and clear.