Alejandro has run the L.A. Marathon, dabbled in political campaigns, and started his own modern dance troupe --all before starting his senior year of high school. It’s safe to say he’s an impressive young adult but despite his confident smile, he was once a self-proclaimed “shy kid.”

"I didn’t talk to anyone in middle school and I was really quiet,” he said. But after joining United Way’s Young Civic Leaders Program two years ago, Alejandro was able to develop a new skill set that opened up opportunities for him to explore what he was passionate about.

The Young Civic Leaders Program (YCLP) is one of United Way’s most dynamic and impactful ways to engage those most affected by education policy: students themselves.

A leadership program that recruits high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, YCLP teaches student ambassadors how to effectively serve, advocate, and organize for themselves and their peers. Empowering student voices and leaders via social justice and advocacy work, YCLP helps actively increase the number of LAUSD students who are college-eligible and career-ready -- the need for which has never been more pressing.

Since joining YCLP, Alejandro has participated in student-led candidate forums, voter registration drives, and a hands-on internship at United Way. These opportunities helped him become a more confident public speaker while honing his organizational and people skills.

“You learn how to engage with your peers and with adults about policy that’s affecting your school,” said Alejandro. “They build on what you’re good at and help you take advantage of the opportunities that are in the world.”

When asked why he is so passionate about education, his answer was simple:

“Everyone deserves an education,” said Alejandro, who is currently applying to 18 different colleges, many of them Ivy League. “We all deserve the chance to meet college requirements. To go as far as our strengths can take us.”

Know a high school student like Alejandro that wants to make a difference? Recommend them for YCLP! Learn more here.