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Staff Spotlight: Innovation and Technology Manager

Isla Martinez

Marketing and PR Coordinator

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) wants you to learn more about our amazing staff, the individuals behind the work of our programs including the Hispanic Heritage Awards, Latinos on Fast Track (LOFT), Youth AwardsCode as a Second Language and other initiatives!

HHF is a team of 18 individuals working out of our Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles offices, among others. We introduce you to Alberto Avalos, Innovation and Technology Manager.

Alberto was born on the Eastside of LA in Boyle Heights, and grew up in South Gate for most of his life. Both of his parents are from Michoacan, Mexico, and met in Boyle Heights. “They met at a quinceanera of all places, and one of my mom friends invited him, but the interesting part is that my story is very tied to the neighborhood of Boyle Heights and South Gate, they ended up meeting in the city that I ended up growing up in.”

With his story, very much intertwined with both neighborhoods, Alberto split most of his youth in those two neighborhoods. Growing up, Alberto identified himself as an average student, but always was very social, made friends easily and could brighten up anyone’s day. Most people would describe Alberto as a very sociable person, involved in many sports, including soccer and boxing.

Alberto went to South Gate High School his first year of high school and was transferred to South East High School, where he graduated from. When he was transferred over to South East High School, his life changed for the better, and even met his close friend Jose Duran, LOFT Community Coordinator at HHF. He soon began channeling all of his energy into sports. He began playing soccer more actively in 10th grade and would go to the park after school with his friends and enjoy the sport.

“At the park is where I began getting a sense of what a community really is. I grew up at the park and seeing people be with their families, you really saw both worlds, where people are enjoying time with their families and the other side where people weren’t doing the best things. One of the things I learned growing up at the park and in the Southeast Los Angeles Area, was helping people financially is great but the part where a lot of people need the most support is from the emotional side. If people are okay emotionally then other things will go well.”

He continued to say, “I have gotten my emotional connectedness and mindfulness from my mom, who is a very genuine woman and I get my work ethic and my drive from my dad, that has definitely been built into me. He’s taught me to do your best work all the time, always do your hardest and maximize everything you can do, but also do it with a sense of mindfulness and genuineness of how you approach work and you how work with people. I know where my drive and ambition to be the best I can be comes from; it is from my dad “el jefe.”

Alberto grew up wanting to be a lawyer, but as any other young adult is growing up, having to make a decision is the most challenging part. Making an impact on his community is definitely something Alberto envisioned for his life.

After high school, Alberto attended University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied Political Science. It was a powerful moment for Alberto and his family, a transformative feeling that he was able to share with his friends and family when he found out he was accepted into the University. He continued to play sports in college and was part of a community focused organization, Carnales in Aztlan. This group consisted of Latino men who shared their personal experiences, and a change for his emotional being, something that isn’t too common among Latino men. Being a part of this group allowed Alberto to be a part of the local Latino community in Santa Barbara supporting efforts to uplift the community.

Once graduating from college, Alberto was the Field Director for the Emanuel Pleitez Mayoral Campaign, where he directed 20 full-time campaign organizers for the campaign. Alberto also worked at The Greenlining Institute as a Policy Fellow before his time at HHF.

Alberto was the first person hired out of Los Angeles for HHF, team of one at the time and now is HHF’s Innovation and Technology Manager, running our Code as a Second Language (CSL) Initiative in several cities. He is inspired by the energy, commitment and focus of our community and is most inspired by our youth.

“They are knowledgeable, they are strong and they are innovative. They have demonstrated time and again that they have innovative ideas on how to solve the world’s most pressing issues, we just need to continue to provide the platform for them to lead.”

Since his start at HHF, Alberto has worked closely with Emanuel Pleitez, Board member at HHF, and Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO at HHF. “I feel very lucky to be able to have the opportunity to work with both of them and sitting in the same room as them and learning from them. They don’t just care about the work, they’ve always been invested in me as a person and have the confidence that I will figure it out. I have always felt extremely supported at HHF.”

Alberto has seen so much progression at HHF, especially in the expansion of the Los Angeles team, and has faced a few obstacles along the way. “My biggest obstacle to date is trying to adapt as a leader, as your team grows and your needs grow. Understand that with leadership is not just one word defined very easily, but leadership is adaptive where you have to continue to grow as a leader and a manger to address the needs of everyone. Although it has been the biggest obstacle, it has also been the greatest joy to see everyone grow.”

Alberto works with corporate sponsors and partners, such as Google, Facebook, Infosys Foundation USA, Best Buy Foundation, Adobe Foundation, GM, AT&T, and many others.

“Working with sponsors and partners in general, it’s been very rewarding because you see investment from partners and sponsors, and they are investing in our community. They are recognizing the value of our work, we do amazing work and seeing the impact it has on them and supporting us is an amazing experience. After we close an event, I get to hear the sponsors say it was amazing and I am able to see the sponsors be fully committed to our work.

Where does Alberto see HHF moving forward? “At HHF, I see the team continuing to build out their respective programs, continued growth and continue leadership development. Developing to model the work we are doing in our community, in our organization.”

During his free time Alberto likes to play basketball, soccer and loves to exercise, and stay active. Alberto also likes to build things with his dad, they’ve built gates, wooden frames,furniture pieces, you name it! He likes to build things as it keeps him on his feet to continue learning.

Quick fact to know about Alberto? His favorite show is I Love Lucy, as he watched that show with his grandma growing up, who learned English due to the show. He even has all of the seasons on DVD! “Lucy has been so groundbreaking, my grandma would understand what was going on in the show literally by just looking at Lucy’s facial expressions and her body language.”

Alberto’s work at HHF does not go unnoticed, thank you for your commitment Alberto, HHF is lucky to have you! Stay tuned to learn more about our HHF staff in the weeks to come.