We're so excited about this news! We're continuing our mission of building young leaders on the east side by hiring our four Changemakers participants to spearhead our youth programs!
Alec Alanis, Christopher Kirkwood Jr., Teli Veamatahau, and Cortez Warren have each been through our programs themselves over the years, and recently completed their time as paid interns, working closely with staff to develop their leadership abilities. Now, as Program Managers, they'll take over the planning and implementation of our elementary and high school programs, as well as our job-skills training at The Plaza Theater.
“I feel honored to be a part of the growth and development of our students,” said Cortez. “I truly believe The Lift’s lessons in social and emotional awareness will help them navigate through life with confidence and balance.” Cortez has been involved with us since he was 15, and now, at 27, is turning around to reinvest what he’s learned in the next generation of east side youth.
Our Executive Director, Dr. Sandra Unger, and new Program Coordinator, Ginny Ruzicka, will work alongside these four to offer support and guidance. “This is the realization of something we’ve always wanted to do in the neighborhood,” Sandra said, “which is to pass leadership on to those who have grown up here. Because they’ve gone through similar life experiences as our youth, these four will be able to speak into their lives in a way we haven’t been able to before.”
Alec, Christopher, Teli, and Cortez will together take over the role left by Aaron Day, who after over ten years with The Lift will be stepping down as Youth Programs Director this week. “It feels bittersweet,” Aaron said. “I’ll continue to be a part of the community we’ve built, but not being in the office every day is like moving away from family.” Aaron played a key role in shaping our youth programs since the very beginning, and is now handing off his responsibilities to some of the same young men he helped mentor over that time period. “I’m so excited to see these guys step into their new roles.”
Aaron is parting ways to more seriously pursue a field he’s been exploring informally for years—helping people improve their lives through better health, both physically and mentally. We're sad to see him go, but wish him well!