Today we’d like to introduce you to Oscar Luzanilla.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started my journey with the East Valley Family YMCA in 2003 after graduating from high school. Throughout high school and up to graduation, I found myself unmotivated, uninterested, and worst of all, uncaring. Having barely squeaked by with the bare minimum, I didn’t apply to any universities or colleges, I couldn’t find any work, and I had no idea what I was going to do after the final summer break a post-high school.
Earlier in the summer, a good friend of mine recommended I apply to volunteer for the YMCA as a camp counselor for their popular resident camp. I had never been to camp before nor did I have experience in childcare or working with youth, but since I wasn’t doing anything anyway, I decided I might as well give it a shot.
Unbeknownst to me, this was the first step towards becoming the person I am today and the beginning of my new life. I found myself immersed in a community that was positive, constructive, and caring, I found like-minded individuals who recognized the importance of consistency in the community and giving back to the world to make it a better place. I learned the importance of values and being part of something greater than yourself. I found a home when I didn’t believe I had a home.
I returned year after year to summer camp as a counselor and then as a unit director, also being asked to volunteer throughout the school year with a high school civic engagement program called Model Legislature & Court, widely known as Youth & Government. This would eventually lead to me applying for, and being offered, the position of Program Director of Youth Development here at the East Valley Family YMCA.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I wouldn’t say my path has been a smooth one, but I also wouldn’t say that it was an impossible terrain either. I am very blessed and lucky to have support & guidance from my mentors and loved ones, friends that are close and have been for years, and a great family that loves me.
I think the most challenging thing I have ever faced is accepting responsibility and ownership for my mistakes and self-created barriers and obstacles. My errors and mistakes, especially when ignored or brushed under the rug, have only exacerbated my obstacles and challenges, as they often do. I have found challenges and obstacles offer growth and experience but only if they are faced, never if they are dismissed or ignored.
East Valley Family YMCA – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our YMCA is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community and the lives of those that live in that community. Our three areas of focus are Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. At our branch, I am in charge of Youth Development, so I work with pre/teens ages 11 – 18 in several areas of programs that we offer across the board.
I run a Model Legislature & Court program for high school students, a Model United Nation program for jr. high students, a leadership/HS unit for our Resident Camp, and a smaller traveling camp, traveling to Mammoth and the surrounding areas, for jr high & high school aged students.
Having been with the YMCA for 15 years now, I certainly specialize in engaging teens and adults in conversations discussing the importance of values-based learning, community building, and healthy development. I work with many young people during a crucial time in their lives and I attempt to offer them the kind of guidance and support that would have benefited me around the time that I was searching for the same thing.
I am most proud of our organization because of the work we do with the community, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic situation, sex, religion, and/or creed we are here to provide a place for everyone to make themselves better in whatever meaningful way that is important to you and to make the community we are based in a better place. We have a saying here at our branch, if you ever feel that you are in a place that you don’t belong or are unwelcome, East Valley will always be the place where you are welcome and you belong.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It is difficult to pick out a single moment in my career that is my proudest, proud moments for me occur when the young people I am working with take the opportunities presented to them and take advantage of them. I have a mixture of young people in my program from all walks of life: rich, poor, cis, trans, gay, straight, democrat, republican, perfectionist, slacker, shy, outspoken, and of course a mix of all those traits or none of them or in between.
My proudest moment is that through the Y we can build a place where they all come together and work out their differences and engage in conversations and efforts towards a cause greater than themselves. My proudest moment is when that shy quiet young person who hasn’t said a word all year, delivers an inspirational invocation they have been sitting on but have been too afraid to give. My proudest moment is when a young person knows they are valued and wants to give back because they feel they have received so much. My proudest moment is watching my young people succeed.
- Address: 5142 Tujunga Ave,
North Hollywood, CA 91601
- Website: www.ymcala.org/ev
- Email: oscarluzanilla@ymcaLA.org