June 2024

A Triumph of Potential: From Overlooked Youth to Rising Stars

As the bright lights illuminated the Santa Cruz TEDx stage, Alex and Martín stood side-by-side with me, their presence commanding the audience’s attention. These two young men from Santa Cruz County are a living embodiment of the life-changing power of believing in hidden talent.

For Alex, the journey began years earlier on a court at the YMCA where I was coaching basketball. I love sports and volunteered to coach the team that no one else wanted – a crew of eight boys, including Alex.

We didn’t win a single game. People would make fun of our losing streaks. To lift my team’s spirits, I reached out to the Golden State Warriors ticket office to see how I could get the team to a Warriors game. Inspired by my story, they connected me to the manager.

He not only invited our team to attend a game, he gave us amazing seats, free food, and even the opportunity to play on the court. Despite our record, my unwavering belief in the kids’ potential helped them start to believe it themselves.

It was a pivotal moment for Alex who learned an invaluable lesson: that his worth extended far beyond the court, and that his dreams were valid, no matter how improbable they might seem to others. Years later, we reconnected and he was one of our first members of the Digital NEST (the NEST). Today, Alex is an accomplished software engineer who advocates for social impact, growth and mentorship.

Martín was a child of farmworkers. His family couldn’t afford reliable technology to complete his schoolwork. His life changed when he found Digital NEST nine years ago. Today, he is a philanthropist and software engineer devoted to bridging the digital divide. He is a Digital NEST board member and leader in Latino Community Foundation Latinos In Tech Giving Circle, and oversees the distribution of $250,000+ in grants to Latinx-led nonprofits.

How does it feel for kids like Alex and Martín growing up in Santa Cruz County? For them, it means overcoming the doubts and limitations others try to impose on them. It means pursuing their passions no matter how impossible they may seem to others.

Digital NEST creates sustainable and scalable technology learning centers for Latinx youth in order to foster economic equality. We achieve this by teaching technical and soft skills, providing mentors and broadening networks to gain sustainable employment.

I founded the organization to provide opportunities to the hidden youth talent like I did for Alex and Martín, and hundreds of other youth. The need is clear – 10 years later, we’ve grown from our first hub in Watsonville to five, including Stockton, Gilroy, Salinas and Modesto.

As Alex and Martín took the TEDx stage, their presence was a testament to the power of belief, perseverance, and the importance of nurturing hidden talents.

The talk was a celebration of the journey of these two extraordinary individuals whose lives were impacted by the NEST and those who saw their potential when others did not.

For parents in Santa Cruz and Aptos looking to tap your childrens’ potential this summer, the NEST’s programs provide an unparalleled chance to equip your kids with invaluable skills, while immersing them in an extraordinary community that nurtures their talents and aspirations.

The NEST is the first step on a life-altering path for hundreds of youth, much like the ones Alex and Martín embarked upon years ago.

To learn more about the NEST’s summer programs, visit DigitalNEST.org.

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