From Youth Members to Board Members: Meet Edgar Morales and Ethan Smith!
Over the past few years, we have been fortunate to welcome two APCH Alumni, Edgar Morales and Ethan Smith, to our Board of Directors. Both Edgar and Ethan bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, as well as unique perspectives as former members who’ve experienced APCH programming firsthand.
At APCH, our goal is to support and empower youth in South Central as they discover their passions, realize their goals, and build fulfilling futures. It’s our hope that after APCH, our members continue to use their voices and talents to contribute to making the world a better, more equitable place for all, and Edgar and Ethan are doing just that. It’s the ultimate full circle moment!
Recently, we connected with Edgar and Ethan to get to know them a little better, and learn about their time at A Place Called Home, their professional and personal growth, and their advice for our current APCH members. Enjoy!
What was your A Place Called Home experience like? What was your favorite part?
Edgar: For me, APCH was a place where I could dream, and it still is for so many young people. During my time there, I was a part of the “Teen Center” and I was involved in the tutoring program and the computer program. My favorite part, though, was the people. I built so many great relationships with other students and APCH staff, and it was through these experiences that I developed confidence in myself and was able to pursue many of my dreams.
Ethan: My mother found APCH 18 years ago, and at the time, they were offering a gang intervention and prevention program, which was my first introduction to A Place Called Home. From that point on, I was involved in everything. My favorite part has to be Camp Hope. Back in the day, APCH had a collaborative partnership with Camp Hope that would take APCH member families out to the woods for a week…I enjoyed it so much, I returned as a junior counselor. My member journey started when I was 13 and carried me through college – I was an APCH Shaheen Scholar at Loyola Marymount University.
What has your personal and professional growth been like since APCH?
Edgar: There are no words to express the impact APCH has had in my life. At a personal level, I overcame many social barriers – learning English as a teenager, adapting to a new culture in the US, and becoming more social. Thanks to APCH I was able to work on my personal development and become more confident in myself.
At a professional level, I would never have completed my education if it wasn’t for the financial support APCH provided. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to focus on my studies and to eventually become the first in my family to graduate from college. Now, I can proudly say that I’m contributing to society through my career in Civil Engineering.
Ethan: Personally, growth has presented itself most in schedule management and decision making. There’s a lot of coordination that shows up in my everyday life from managing the schedule of two high school boys that play sports and maintaining good health, to establishing a healthy social life and juggling work. It takes a very keen understanding of how to prioritize and say no when necessary to ensure that I show up as my best self across the board. If I say I’m going to be somewhere or do something It’s important that I honor that. I am a firm believer that my word is my bond.
Professionally, the growth has been tremendous. Studying engineering in college taught me a host of things but the one thing that stuck with me is understanding how to problem solve. My professional career has spanned across a multitude of fields, from nonprofit youth development to technology and now real estate development. In each of these areas, there have been a series of problems presented where the onus has been on me to solve with the support of the fantastic teams around me. Being able to effectively work with people has been the thing that has propelled me forward in my career.
How do your past experiences as an APCH member guide your work now as an APCH Board member?
Edgar: I feel that having grown up in South Central gives me a unique viewpoint on the needs that many young people in this neighborhood have. Being a former member myself, I am able to use that perspective to identify key areas where we can improve. I always like to ask myself, “What can make APCH better?”, and “How can we make it happen?”, all while keeping in mind the needs of our members and our long-term goals.
Ethan: As a former APCH member my approach to serving as a Board member is rooted in a desire to be a voice for the members served by the organization. I’ve witnessed firsthand how decisions impact the experience of members of APCH and it’s my goal to ensure that the decisions we make as a Board are always in their best interest. Additionally, as a current resident of the community I also have insight about the greatest needs. I often share these needs with the Board in an effort to ensure that as we act upon our responsibility as Board members, we keep in mind what’s most important: properly serving the communities represented at APCH.
What is one piece of advice you have for the current members of A Place Called Home?
Edgar: Never stop dreaming and take advantage of all the opportunities available to you! APCH has always strived to help our community and I think it is crucial for members to know that APCH is there for them.
Ethan: Start building your network now and cultivate relationships with 3 people doing something that you’re interested in.
Many thanks to Edgar and Ethan for sharing their experiences with us. To learn more about our programming here at APCH, visit: https://apch.org/what-we-do/
Changing the world starts at Home.