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.

Videos

Videos

By Roadtrip Nation
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Omar Cardenas HighlightInterview Highlight
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InterviewThe Interview
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Build RelationshipsWeb Exclusive
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Importance of MentorsWeb Exclusive
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Wake Up CallWeb Exclusive
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Ethnic StudiesWeb Exclusive
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Healing Through CultureWeb Exclusive
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A Tree is Not Strong Without its RootsInterview Excerpt
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La Cultura CuraInterview Excerpt
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Milestones

Milestones

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.
Keep following my journey
Education

Education

highschool
High School
undergrad
Bachelor
Hispanic-American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican-American/Chicano Studies
California State University-Northridge
Career

Career

Youth Organizer

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

Career Roadmap

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

Day to Day

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

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

There are many paths one can take to become a Youth or Community Organizer, but what really matters is that you have love and a sense of commitment to your community and social justice.

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!

Hurdles

Hurdles

The Noise I Shed

From Teachers:

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

I wasn't given the critical or analytical skills to challenge this negative perception that people had of me based on how I was raised. So, I accepted it and internalized it. By looking up to my older brother and watching him succeed made me feel powerless because I knew I couldn't engage at that level. That was all it took to inspire me to go back to school and push through.

Challenges I Overcame

Other
Other

I didn't have any mentors to guide me. I didn't know what my options were.

Gangs / Violence
Gangs / Violence

Physical violence existed in my home so I internalized that and it was exacerbated by what was going on in my community.

First-Generation Immigrant
First-Generation Immigrant

I'm a first generation resident of this country. My parents were immigrants.