As an alumnus of Future Leaders of America, I’ve had the greatest honor to lead this organization since 2014 as its executive director. Through this role, I have grown tremendously professionally and personally and had the privilege to get to know many of our friends and supporters. I am really proud of the work my team’s done over the last half-decade of continually increasing Future Leaders’ impact on the Central Coast. Through our work we have been able to reimagine power and transform communities in boundless ways. After this powerful journey, I am announcing my departure from the group this summer.
When I first walked into my office, it was merely a classroom in the old Oxnard High School and a desk in Santa Barbara. Future Leaders of America (FLA) had suffered great losses due to the 2008 market crash and was still reeling from the financial impact. With three employees, two of them part-time, we got to work. FLA has become the premiere youth leadership organization on the Central Coast, from relaunching old programs such as our Family Leadership Conference to engaging in new youth organizing efforts. We have also expanded our efforts outside Santa Barbara and Oxnard to include Port Hueneme, Carpinteria, and Santa Maria by merging with Central Coast Future Leaders. We’ve experienced many wins (i.e., A-G for All!) and many setbacks, but I am proud to have been part of it all.
Future Leaders is now part of a larger set of organizations uplifting youth as social change agents. Our youth have advocated for healthier communities through our government partnerships and to reduce underage access to tobacco and alcohol. Our partnership with Education Trust West allowed us to expand the discussion on what equity means by presenting “data for the people.” Through Power CA, we ran local campaigns, hired as many as 20 youths at a phonebank to call thousands of voters to become part of the electoral process. Not to mention our partnership with CAUSE and MICOP to form the 805UndocuFund that has has allowed FLA to support the management and administration of the COVID-19 response efforts — distributing more than $3 million to undocumented families throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
This has all been possible because of my supportive team (28 employees strong now!) and FLA’s Board of Directors. Future Leaders is financially stable, with a $1.5 million budget, and with a strong team committed to elevating youth and creating long-lasting systemic social change.
I am excited about what the future holds for FLA. I am also excited about the opportunity to expand my skill sets in social justice as I continue my career. In the coming weeks, the FLA Board of Directors will release a job description for a new executive director. I will support the transition by working with the board and the new executive director to ensure they have the tools necessary to prosper in this position.
As I start closing this chapter, I am still reminiscent about my own experience at FLA. I still remember the shy, timid undocumented 14-year-old boy who wanted to live and experience the world, yet lacked the confidence to do so. I am keenly aware of what Future Leaders of America has given me, and I have tried my best to give back and more. Who knew that this kid would end up going to his dream school, UCLA, attend Columbia University for his master’s degree, and be blessed with the opportunity to return as executive director to contribute to the organization’s growth. I am a living experience of the impact of FLA, but I’m not the only one. The “FLA magic” has inspired countless alumni, and I am proud to be a part of this legacy.
I want to give a heartfelt thank you to my mentors and peers for making my job engaging and meaningful. I look forward to updating you on our transitioning and introducing our new executive director. Thank you all for your friendship, generosity, and tremendous support.
Eder Gaona-Macedo is a 2003 alum of Future Leaders of America and was named executive director in 2014.