East Los Angeles, California
As a student of LA CAUSA YouthBuild in East Los Angeles, Ely Flores built a foundation as a leader and advocate, one that has never lost sight of what’s at stake.
“LA CAUSA YouthBuild empowered me to define who I am as an individual and how I want my community and society to view me,” Ely said. “No longer did I allow a fatherless past or a past of living at the mercy of poverty to dictate my actions. I took control of my destiny.”
At the age of 17, he served as a community organizer, challenging the criminal justice and education systems in Los Angeles to provide more resources for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people who want to change their lives. His passion for social justice and youth empowerment became evident.
YouthBuild connected Ely with organizations like Youth Justice Coalition and Public Allies, where he further developed his skills in community and youth development. In 2006, he started a youth leadership program that has become its own nonprofit: Leadership through Empowerment, Action, and Dialogue Inc. (LEAD). In 2009, he became the outreach coordinator for GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, which provides energy efficiency education and solar-panel systems for under-resourced communities at no cost to homeowners.
Ely took advantage of YouthBuild USA’s Graduate Facilitators Program, which encourages and works with graduates who have a natural ability in public speaking and to become full-fledged trainers and advisers to youth programs.
And in 2014, Ely launched LEAD YouthBuild in Northeast Los Angeles, the first YouthBuild program founded by a graduate.
YouthBuild was instrumental in building my foundation of professional and transferable skills,” Ely said. “They take a partnership approach to developing young leaders by offering resources and connections to other programs and organizations. It was up to me to take these resources, make the connections, and build my professional portfolio to get to the place I am today.
Ely’s advice for opportunity youth remains consistent and clear. “Do not be afraid of learning more; do not be afraid of growing more; do not be afraid of success. The impact that an under-resourced but promising young person’s success has on his or her community and society is one that will transfer over to any job and professional sector and can serve as an inspiration for young people everywhere needing a piece of hope.”