Director | ASAPconnect
California Hub | USA
I began my career in Expanded Learning (formerly known as After School) in 1994 as a highly idealistic and even more naive college student. Armed with some Egyptian musk, a few packs
of incense, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X, I set out on the journey, unbeknownst to me at the time, as a Community Educator. My teachers/trainers were a group 3rd-6th graders (and
by extension their families as well) from Sherman and Logan Heights in San Diego, CA. The classrooms were Chicano Park in Logan and the “Yellow House” Sherman. My first lesson:
humility. My teachers were incredibly patient with this poor student. My classmates/cohort were a team like minded individuals who were equally idealistic… just not as naive. This team
believed. Believed in the work. Believed in the students and families. Believed in me. In 2002, while preparing for an outdoor camping experience with 20 middle school students, I received a
call, “Diego, how would you like to move to Los Angeles and help launch [Governor] Schwarzenegger’s after school program, Arnold’s All-Stars.”
Where I trained with one of the best. His experience working with state, federal and local educational agencies would warrant honorific titles, yet he preferred to be called, The Gypsy
Scholar. A man who had the ability to teach and inspire with stories. Stories that would travel to heal and transform. Together with a band of unlikely individuals, young and old, we created a
tribe. A tribe, a community, that became a statewide and national model for middle school expanded learning programs. Many discussed the ‘secret sauce’ that created these
programs…there are no secrets. A team of super-empowered individuals worked intensely and collaboratively to transform first themselves, then all those in their social field to educate,
enlighten and inspire. We stopped looking for role models when we realized we were the Real Models. Simple to say and write. But a lifetime to be and do. Yet, the stories are legendary. The people even more incredible. When the mindset is “youth come to programs but stay for the people,” what do you expect?
In 2010, the opportunity to join ASAPconnect brought me to the Bay Area in northern
California. In my decade with ASAPconnect, three core values have shaped and continue to
guide my work:
(1) Being one’s true authentic self,
(2) Embracing the beauty of mindful living, and
(3) Connecting people to inspire impact
These core values are expressed in the various opportunities to facilitate and serve the
expanded learning field and other social systems that impact the well-being of our young
people. That is very technical language to say my core values are expressed in all that I do and
this expression has found home in all spaces where young people are at the center.
This is me.
A dream or prayer of my ancestors.
A holder of inspiration in my descendants.
One who at times is blinded by love.
One who believes in the nobility of service.
One who believes we will win.