Omar Cardenas

Omar Cardenas

Youth Organizer

Children's Defense Fund

Los Angeles, CA US

Culture cures us; we heal through culture. We heal through our experiences and our ancestors' knowledge. I knew that I needed more of that to uplift my spirit, to help me heal from the trauma I experienced growing up.


By Roadtrip Nation

Omar Cardenas


My road in life took a while to figure out.
Stockton, California, where Omar grew up, was once named "America's Most Miserable City."
At home, Omar experienced physical psychological violence; he internalized that violence and started on a self-destructive path.
At one point, his principal met him at the steps of the school and told him to leave; he didn't know what his options were, so he just left.
Luckily, he had his older brother as a role model; his brother was the first of his friends to graduate high school.
He'd listen to his brother have intellectual conversations, and he felt powerless because he couldn't engage; decided he had to go back to school.
He was 23 when he went back to school; started at community college, where a Chicano Studies class caught his attention.
Realized "la cultura cura": culture cures; joined the Children's Defense Fund to help young people learn about and embrace their roots.
Says at times, seeing young people going through what he experienced can be taxing, but he stays positive, takes everything one day at a time.


Youth Organizer

As a Youth Organizer, I am responsible for working with youth and families to fight for change in their communities.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Non-Profit Organizations
Teaching / Mentoring

Day to Day

Collectively we identify a problem and create community centered solutions to those problems.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

In addition to understanding trauma and the process of healing, I would add that it is important for young people to always question what they see in their school, community, and the world. Young people will one day be in positions of leadership and it is important to have your own assessment of systemic and social issues, as well as be community minded so that you can be a part of making our world a better place. Take care of yourself, your family, and your community!


The Noise I Shed

From Teachers:

"You can't go to this school anymore."

Challenges I Overcame

Gangs / Violence
First-Generation Immigrant

Interviewed By

Know Who You Are

Know Who You Are

The team's search for wisdom continues in San Francisco, where they interview Roy Remer, a volunteer coordinator at the Zen Hospice Project. Moving on to Southern California, community is the topic of discussion with Omar Cardenas, a youth organizer for the Children's Defense. Later, in L.A., the team is moved by the story of Ian Harvie, a transgendered stand-up comedian, who urges them to have conviction in their identities.