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Partner Spotlight: Eduardo Zaragoza

Eduardo is twenty-three years old, and since 17 has been the kind of leader so many aspire to be.  Having been involved in Mestizo Arts and Activism for years in high school and college, he considers himself “a product of MAA.”Eduardo has also been an intern at the Glendale Mountain View CLC, and is currently lead facilitator for the new Youth Voices partnership, a community leadership and activism program for high school-aged students.  In his professional role, he is a University of Utah College Advising Corps (UCAC) advisor at Highland High School.  Eduardo is a familiar face with many UNP regulars.  Paul Kuttner (Educational Pathways Partnership Manager) invited him to participate in an interview with Kara Byrne and Haeree Kim.  We met with him at the University Neighborhood Partners house in March 2017.

Introduced to a Way of Life     Eduardo initially got involved with Mestizo Arts and Activism (MAA) through his high school friend. He was a junior in high school and wondered where his friend was going on Mondays and Wednesdays.  His friend invited him to MAA, where Eduardo found a group of his peers involved in social justice arts projects.  He was drawn to this partnership because he felt like he was a part of something larger, a part of positive change and something that had real impact.  It was at MAA that he met Matt Bradley, a man who had a significant impact on Eduardo, especially his senior year.  Matt Bradley was a guiding figure to many youth and adult leaders in the community and at the University.  Sadly, Matt passed away in 2012, but his legacy of a life of activism and strength endures in youth like Eduardo.  MAA was paying youth as participatory action researchers.  In reference to this, Eduardo shared, “It made me realize that this is what I wanted to do as a career. It made me realize I could do this as a job and lead a fair life, helping the community and doing something I enjoy.”

Opening Doors   UNP partnerships are aimed at bringing together University and community resources in reciprocal learning, action, and benefit.  Eduardo referred to this as “opening doors” to him.  He attended events and met people through his engagement with UNP partnership works. “The events that are held [by UNP] have really opened doors.  It was impactful because I met people that I was able to relate to and wanted to resemble.”  Following MAA, Eduardo went on to receive a Bachelors degree in sociology, with a certificate in diversity.  At the University of Utah he met Alonso Reyna Rivarola (Dream Program Coordinator) and Jarred Martinez (Office of Engagement). With Jarred and Alonso, Eduardo decided to open up something like MAA at the U of U (called MACC). Jarred, too, opened up a lot of doors for Eduardo, offering opportunities to network and possibilities for projects.    

Eduardo continued his leadership work by interning at the Glendale Mountain View CLC with coordinator Keri Tadie. “Keri took me under wing, she introduced me to people. She saw something in me.  People at random UNP events will say, ‘I’ve seen you somewhere.  I recognize you.”  Alonso and Jarred are both connected to UNP, and following Eduardo’s graduation, these two introduced Eduardo to Paul Kuttner, Education Pathways Partnership Manager at UNP.  Paul met Alonso and Jarred through other partnership work in the schools, and upon learning about Eduardo, invited Eduardo in for an interview to co-lead Youth Voices at the Hartland Partnership Center, where he has been working to open doors for youth in much the same way others did for him.

When asked, “What does leadership mean to you?” Eduardo explained:  

“I think it’s being able to work well with others, but using everyone’s strengths to best work for the collective goal…and being able to push others to be leaders themselves.  I am trying to think of what I try to do with the youth. I am trying to empower the youth to build their leadership skills and empowering them to use their strengths to work with others towards a collective goal.”