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Staff Spotlight: LOFT Program Coordinator

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 Brenda Camarillo, LOFT Program Coordinator.

Brenda was born in East Los Angeles and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Growing up, Brenda  loved playing soccer,  reading and volunteering at local grade schools. .

Spanish music, specifically rock en español and cumbias, brings back good memories, it was what she grew up listening to. For Christmas, New Years and other holidays, her dad would bring out  his DJ set and  would play music, and towards the end of the night, her dad would put rock en español, and everyone would dance , creating beautiful memories with her family. Brenda started working at 12 years old, with her mother, who sold clothing at Los Angeles’ Downtown Fashion District. Brenda attended Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School in South Central, Los Angeles, where she was involved in Guitar Club, Spirit Club, ASB, Art Club, Book Club, and was Captain of the girls soccer team.

She attended East Los Angeles College (ELAC) and describes community college as  one of the best experiences she has ever had. . It was in her first college class, a Chicano/a studies class where she would soon find her passion, and more importantly her chosen major. “Professor Sandoval,  had this passion, energy, and knowledge about history that I wasn’t familiar with andI immediately fell for Chicano studies. It was so new to me and important  that I ended up majoring in Chicano studies.” Professor Sandoval served as a huge role model in college, and remains Brenda’s mentor today.

Brenda transferred to UCLA,  majoring in Chicano/a Studies.  Brenda succeeded with the help of her family, always making sure to visit her family back at home just a few miles away. During college Brenda worked as an academic tutor, and in her last  quarter she was commuting to school and started an internship with HHF.. During her internship, Brenda was working with Innovation and Tech Manager, Alberto Avalos and Director of Programs, Jasmin Zamorano assisting with the  2015 Youth Awards  building databases and  and outreaching to raise awareness for students to apply to the Youth Awards.  As her internship was coming to an end, HHF  offered her a full-time position as a Code as A Second Language (CSL) Coordinator to work on the 2015 LOFT Coder Summit at UCLA, and she became an official HHF team member.

She distinctly remembers the 2015 LOFT Coder Summit in Minneapolis, and the challenges that came with finding 50 Latino coders to attend. . HHF’s Coder Summits were hosted in Los Angeles, New York, Silicon Valley and Texas. .

Last year, Brenda spearheaded the Latinas on Fast Track (LOFT) Summits  in New York and Los Angeles. This initiative connects, inspires and empowers young Latina professionals and college students from across the nation through leadership, networking and community building to prepare them for the pursuit of their career, all while celebrating their Latina culture.

Today, Brenda is our Youth Awards Coordinator. The Youth Awards honor Latino high school seniors who excel in the classroom and community and for their focus in various categories. Our Youth Awards are celebrated across the country, and Brenda is excited to bring the Youth Awards to life soon in the fall!

Working at HHF for almost 2 years, Brenda has  seen much change and growth within the organization. “Personally, I have changed a lot since my time at HHF and I have grown tremendously. HHF will always be special for me because it’s really not just the work that I have done here, but as a young professional HHF has always had a lot of trust and confidence in my work.”

“The moment that I stepped into my role everyone was supportive and caring, you really get a sense that the people  at HHF really care about the work that they do.

“Meeting Emanuel Pleitez, Board Chair at HHF, was  a huge deal for me. He has done such amazing work, and I knew in that moment that I wanted to be like these impactful leaders one day.”

Brenda has worked with sponsors like The CocaCola Foundation and the U.S. Army and more now as she is leading the Youth Awards program, working with sponsors for each category. “I am learning how to  develop and maintain relationships with sponsors .”

Where does Brenda see HHF moving forward? “I think we will continue to challenge ourselves as much as we can, to always  move forward in a positive direction.”

Brenda attending concerts when she’s not working, and is  learning to dance bachata and salsa.

What does Brenda want you to know about her? Her biggest dream is becoming a grandma. Brenda’s family is really important to her, spending time with them is not only what she looks forward to but makes a priority, they are her everything.

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