Growing up in single parent, low-income household, Chantiri Ramirez had limited resources and knowledge about how to enroll in college. As a first generation immigrant, she was interested and eager to learn what this country had to offer. She was introduced to FLA through her 9th grade English teacher who recommended that she attend summer camp. Chantiri participated in FLA’s youth leadership camp in the summer of 2004. “This was the first time I was exposed to college students from different universities,” she said, “and for the first time I felt a sense of hope that one day I could also be a college student.”
Her sophomore year, Chantiri went back to her school and co-founded the San Marcos High School FLA club. Chantiri was driven to excel in college preparatory courses and become a top ten student in her in graduating class. She joined Upward Bound at UCSB and volunteered for FLA events. “In Santa Barbara I saw a lot of income inequality,” said Chantiri, “but this was the space where youth that had similar socioeconomic backgrounds to mine were succeeding academically.”
Chantiri was selected to return as a volunteer staff and pass on the information she had learned. In 2005, she was part of the peer-facilitator team and helped guide students through discussions on leadership and how to get to college. She also volunteered as a Peer-Facilitator for University Seminars, Family Camps and enrichment workshops serving Santa Barbara students. “I was there to grow as a leader,” said Chantiri, “but I was also there to guide younger students in developing their leadership skills.” Through a FLA University Seminar visit, she fell in love with UC Berkeley. She was adamant about applying to college and making it happen.
Chantiri attended UC Berkeley where she majored in Development Studies. At Berkeley, she became highly involved in the undocumented student movement where she Co-Chaired Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE). Through her efforts, RISE was able to hold education conferences for high school students and mentor undocumented students.
Just a few years later, Chantiri is a 2nd year Ph.D. student at UCLA where she is studying immigrant political activism in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. She continues to take on leadership positions and is currently serving as the graduate student representative for her department’s faculty hiring committee.
She is also currently planning a University Seminar for FLA at UCLA which will be held in the Summer of 2015. “For students who have limited financial resources,” she says, “it’s important to have them walk through the hallways and see themselves at a university setting. It’s only then that they can start envisioning their own capacity as future college students. ”
Growing up, Alex Cuevas had little interest in pursuing leadership or college for that fact. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, instilled in him a hard work ethic that would pay dividends in college. He was introduced to FLA through his older brother, who at the time was a youth volunteer for the camp programs. “As a 14 year old,” he said, “I didn't have any expectations of camp and honestly didn't want to go.” After much hesitation, he decided to board the bus to Camp Whittier.
At the Leadership Camp, he met people from all over the Central Coast but he also learned about leadership and the importance of good role models. “By the end of the camp,” he states, “I discovered a level of confidence within myself that I didn’t know I had.” That camp introduced Alex to the FLA peer to peer program that he would later credit for his longing to give back to youth. “I could relate to the staff and now that I returned as a staff member I see a lot of my own traits in the students.” The model provided Alex a venue to engage in leadership, practice leadership and share his knowledge with younger students. "Going back home after camp I could see that there were plenty of other students going through the same experiences I was, and this really motivated me to excel in all aspects of my life."
The program challenged Alex to compete academically and in sports while in high school. Through his years in college he competed in track and field. Thanks to his hard work, Alex was able to transfer to California State University, Pomona where he studied Business. He has since, began his career as an accountant for the Los Angeles based firm Vasquez and Co. To this day, Alex still practices many of the skill sets that he learned when he first went to camp in 2004. He hopes to further his career by earning his Certified Public Accountant license and earning a MBA degree. Eventually he hopes return to Santa Barbara and continue to work in the Finance field, while still giving back to the community he was raised in.
When asked why he chose to return as a camp staff, he mentioned the importance of building confidence among peers. “Programs like FLA,” he affirms, “are important because students should be given the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to succeed in a setting and environment that is comfortable for them. FLA is that environment for many students.” Through his experience as a volunteer staff member, he’s been able to influence students to have positive decision making. Alex recently returned to camp as a Facilitator and trainer, helping to transition youth from first time participants to volunteer staff. He’s respected among the youth for his ambitions, career and passion for his community; he’s seen as a positive Latino male role model.
"Future Leaders of America has played a major role in my development in my personal and professional life for a number of years. It has opened doors for me that I never imagined and I learn to appreciate it more every day of my life."
Patty Quiroz, FLA Alumna
UC Berkeley Graduate
Currently at Interface Children & Family Services
"I cannot say enough about how much FLA has impacted my academic, personal, social, and career life. FLA is definitely a program that with support of other organizations, businesses, educators, and community, can accomplish all of its goals and impact all Latino students who become a part of the program."
"FLA has helped me in a variety of ways, but most importantly has given me a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities as a leader that I could not have achieved on my own."
"Future Leaders of America's curriculum has provided me with the support and training to achieve my fullest potential. FLA services and programs are unique in engaging Latino students to succed in life"
"Future Leaders of America has helped me develop leadership and social skills. It has brought me closer to a networking group made up of friends, family, and other leaders of the community. It has truly made an impact in the way I live my life."
"It was hard for me to go to the FLA Camp, it meant losing two day's pay at work, but what FLA gave at camp it is something that a whole life's work couldn't pay for."
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