04 Nov Community Coalition Has a Legacy of Leadership Development
ELMER ROLDAN / SCYEA Class of 1997
Communities in Schools of Los Angeles (CISLA) / Executive Director
“In its early years, Community Coalition had three programs for youth. One was a partnership between CoCo and the Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC), which sought to bring together Black, Brown, and Korean youth together to heal racial tensions post 1992 civil unrest,” says Elmer Roldan, who joined SCYEA when he was 13-years-old.
“CoCo was a haven for me. It opened my mind to learning about Black and Brown world leaders and heroes in the fight for global, social and economic liberation,” Roldan continues. “They challenged me to understand anti-Blackness in America and the importance of true solidarity in the fight for freedom, justice, and self-determination. SCYEA also gave us a $25.00 weekly stipend to participate—the $100.00 monthly check exposed me to earning money, professionalism, and gave me some financial freedom to buy things my mom could not afford for my sisters and me.”
Now a nationally recognized model for youth organizing and leadership development, SCYEA involved area youth in advocacy campaigns. Due to long-term disinvestment in our youth and marginalizing their voices, the prevailing notion was that America’s youth was a “lost generation.” CoCo disproved this pessimistic view, as the organization quickly saw dozens of leaders blossom before their eyes. Those young members became fierce activists and leaders, capable of speaking out about the conditions in their schools and neighborhoods.
Since joining CoCo as a youth organizer more than 20 years ago, Elmer has become a city leader in his own right. He is the Executive Director of Communities in Schools in Los Angeles (CISLA), an educational support organization with a mission to help students stay in school and achieve in life. Organizations like CISLA have not traditionally tackled systemic issues like racism.
Those foundational solidarity lessons learned at CoCo are the guiding principles Elmer uses when implementing his vision for CISLA. “It is with deep commitment to being even better partners with the students, families, and the schools we work with, that we approach our efforts to engage in systems-change initiatives and stand in solidarity with Black and Brown families—especially in this period of our country’s history where our communities are needing a stronger safety-net politically, economically, and environmentally.”