The Spiral of Success

David Grazian









By: David Grazian, Founder and Executive Director of Youth N.O.W.

There is something about experiencing success that makes you want more of it. It’s addictive. On the other hand, if you are failing repeatedly, especially when you are young, you can become convinced that you will continue to fail. I call this, the downward spiral of failure. Until you become convinced that you can succeed, failing repeatedly will make you expect failure. Words alone, such as ‘good job’, or “keep trying” are not enough, we have to help young people experience the spiral of success. In 2009, I retired as a corporate tax professional to inspire success.

Today, my dream is a reality. I call it Youth N.O.W.  For me, Youth N.O.W. is an expression of love.  My vision was to start a student center that helped students find their confidence and to support them with their academics. I was intentional in creating an encouraging space for students to get help with their homework, and I wanted a coffee house to provide a safe social place for students to gather for fun activities, enrichment experiences, and be supported by mentors.  I decided to become that person in their life that believed in them, encouraged them, and helped them experience success.

My staff and many of our volunteers share my vision and passion. Together we have created a culture of love and encouragement that is experienced by our students and our broader community.  Within this atmosphere of love and support, we tackle serious issues in the Watsonville community. For example, only 54% have high school degrees and only 9% have a bachelors degree or higher, and many students do not have the support at home they need.

Julio, a sixth grade student, was brought to us by his mother. His school counselor was concerned about his failing grades, all D’s and F’s, and lack of discipline. His behavior became a real problem. At first, he refused to do homework and didn’t listen to our staff.  I believe that an important characteristic of love is patience, so that’s what we practiced. Most importantly, we didn’t give up, we believed in him, even when he didn’t believe in himself. We gave him an opportunity to build his self-esteem and to experience success.

At the end of the school year, Julio gave an acceptance speech for being the most improved Middle School Student at our annual event. He told his story while his mother listened with tears running down her face.  Julio now has all A’s and B’s.  Most importantly, he said, “I will go to college!”  He found self-confidence and experienced the upward spiral of success.  He would have looked for confidence elsewhere; instead he found it within himself.

Youth N.O.W. is dedicated to helping students experience this “conditioning of success” so that they start building upon it in all areas of their life. Yes, they will experience failure from time to time, but they will pick themselves up and try again because they believe in their ability to succeed. They know it because they have already experienced it.  You can help a young person change their view of themselves and their future by helping them experience success.  I love my work. Every day I get to walk alongside young people, helping them experience the upward spiral of success.

Youth N.O.W.

Meet Ivan Quiñones, the Inspiring Founder of Educa2

Ivan Quinones

After a 37-year career at a Silicon Valley high tech company, Ivan retired in 2011 to start Educa2 to fully focus on improving the education of Latino students and their parents. He is a 2015 grant recipient of both the SF Latina and SF Latino Giving Circles, totaling an investment of $20,000. Ivan was so inspired by the Giving Circle model that he also joined the SF Latino Men’s Giving Circle.

Tell us your background and what inspires you the most?

I’ve been in this country for almost 50 years and still consider myself a Latino.

I come from a poor Colombian family, but a very loving family. We are now spread all over the world, but still close. Everyone worked really hard, a lot of sacrifices were made and I had to be the example. I learned early on that selfishness doesn’t make you happy. My mother always guided me and taught me that kindness, perseverance and patience is what makes you happy.

I have an MBA and spent many years working in Engineering, International Sales and Marketing and general management.

What are you proudest of?

My son Juan David, he is my masterpiece. He is 31 years old and he works as a Senior Strategist with Matter, a design firm based in San Francisco. He is very kind and has a huge heart. Out of all my accomplishments, I’m proudest of him.

The program I run is my second masterpiece. Giving back is a huge part of what I do. I would never have been afforded these opportunities in Colombia so I want to do the most I can for my community. What changed my life was getting an education. I want to be able to give that opportunity to someone else. That is why I started the organization, Educa2.

What’s the greatest opportunity for Latinos?

To get the tools they need to be more proactive leaders not just for Latinos, but for all communities. We need to create more social impact opportunities and not just meet our individual needs. There needs to be more opportunities to be involved at the table. I’ve also learned that education leads to power.

What are some of the barriers that Latinos face?

Latinos are often looked at as lesser than others. There’s a negative image of Latinos that has been created. The challenge is to change that image and it is our job to do so.

In education, the school system by design doesn’t cater to the needs of Latino students.

Another fundamental barrier is we are such a large and growing population. There are huge holes in the education system especially for English Language Learners, for their parents and a lack of school support.

Tell us about Educa2 and your model?

Our model is focused on two things:

1) Equipping Latino ELL students with the innovative tools they need to succeed in school and in life.

2) Empowering parents to become actively engaged in their children’s education

It is an integrated model that helps advance the students’ learnings skills and empowers parents to be part of their growth. The academic goal is to bring struggling second and third graders to English Language proficiency level within one to two years, but also to develop socio-emotional traits (e.g. growth-mindset, grit, perseverance, mindfulness) children need to become creative, confident, happy, thoughtful, and resourceful students and adults.

In our compulsory parental engagement program, Educa2 parents are coached on navigating the US school system, and in ways of creating a nurturing, supporting learning environment at home. To develop teamwork and leadership skills, all educa2 parents must actively participate in school activity committees. With our partners we also train parents on basic computer and Internet skills and encourage them to take ESL classes at the local Adult school. In order to accomplish all these goals we must be able to build their trust and meet them where they are.

How do you build trust with Latino parents? We think this is very important and can help others.

I can only tell you how I do it. You have to be with the people. I sometimes go to the same church on Sundays and I intentionally shop at the same grocery store, La Hacienda Market, because some of the people that I’m working to empower are employees there. I eat and celebrate and share my life with this community I am building.

1) You have to become part of their community.

2) Communication is key.  Schools need to learn how to better communicate with Latino parents and understand their culture and values. There is room for support and improvement. You can’t just send out an email and expect the Latino parents to show up.

What is your vision for the organization in the next five years?

1) Complete and validate the model;

2) Replicate and scale it; and

3) Find key partners – we cannot do this alone

We want to make an impact for the 190,000 ELL Students who live in the Bay Area and over 1.4 million in California.

What does success look like?

For the Kids: Happy Learners.

For the Parents: They feel like they count.

What does it mean for you to receive a grant from both the Latino Giving Circle and Latina Giving Circle?

Receiving this funding validates our work. The affirmation has been a major benefit to our organization, Board members and community. The money is nice, but it’s always more than the money that counts. This has given us a boost. All of our advisors, school officials, Board members were ecstatic to receive this news. I did not expect to get anything from Foundations.

What advice would you give other leaders who want to start a nonprofit?

I did at least two years of research before starting my nonprofit.

1) Get your ideas on paper, do your due diligence and create a business plan.

2) Have a passion for the work.

Why did you join the Latino Giving Circle?

The model is fantastic. It’s an opportunity for Latinos to learn about the work happening in the community and discuss how together we can make an impact. It’s a form of philanthropy that is engaging and dynamic.

What is your super-power?

I am trustworthy and been told I have a kind face. I am also very transparent. People will not trust you if you aren’t transparent.

When are you Happiest?

I am happiest surrounded by the people I love. Happiness is something you also carry inside.

If a child walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?

I would ask, where are your parents?

Educa2 is an organization based in the San Francisco Peninsula and dedicated to improving the education of Latino students and their families.  Educa2 equips elementary school Latino children with innovative skills to succeed in school and in life and empowers parents to actively engage in their children’s education.

PRESS RELEASE: Latino Community Foundation Announces New CEO, Jacqueline Martinez Garcel

Press Contacts:
Sara Velten, VP of Philanthropy
Masha Chernyak, VP of Programs
T: 415.733.8526 / T: 415.533.9697 /

Jacqueline MG Picture

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (November 16, 2015) – The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) Board of Trustees is thrilled to announce that Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, a leader in philanthropy and expert in public health and policy, has been appointed as our Chief Executive Officer. The LCF Board of Trustees is confident that Jacqueline will help take LCF to the next level and scale the accomplishments of the talented LCF team.

“Jacqueline is an experienced philanthropic leader with a deep understanding of Latino issues. She brings a real depth on issues related to equity and community health. She is a great fit to our organization, our ambitious vision and our talented staff” said Aida Alvarez, Chair of the LCF Board of Trustees.

Jacqueline’s commitment to service and the Latino community runs deep. Born in the predominantly Latino community of Washington Heights, Jacqueline’s childhood exposed her to the challenges of an under resourced urban neighborhood and inspired her to become a doctor. While working in a rural community of Yucatan, Mexico she was inspired by the power of community health workers and became committed to the critical work of informing policy to affect systemic and enduring changes to improve the wellbeing of communities.

Jacqueline has over 18 years of solid experience working with community leaders, policymakers, and foundations to bring about large scale, transformational changes that have impacted the lives of people. For the past 9 years, she helped launch and establish one of the largest statewide health foundations in New York.

“It is an incredible honor and privilege to join such an extraordinary Board and staff at a pivotal time of growth for Latinos in California. I look forward to partnering with leaders from across the State to push forward solutions that will bring about greater equity for Latinos in California. This is a historic time for Californians and a perfect opportunity to showcase how investing and elevating Latinos will benefit the economic vitality of the state and serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” said Jacqueline.

Jacqueline was the best choice from an impressive pool of highly qualified candidates. She brought the biggest vision and simultaneously the most humility,” said Arabella Martinez, Interim CEO.

About Latino Community Foundation

The Latino Community Foundation inspires philanthropy, invests in Latino communities and leads transformative solutions for change. LCF believes in the generosity of Latino donors and the leadership of diverse Latino leaders. With initiatives like the Latino Giving Circle Network, LCF is igniting a new generation of Latino philanthropists and helping shape a new narrative of the Latino community. Since 2008, LCF has raised and invested more than $3.3M into 55 Latino-based originations in California. To maximize impact, LCF launched the California Latino Agenda to inspire civic engagement and to strengthen the Latino voice and participation in public policy.  For more information about LCF visit:

Click here to read Jacqueline’s full biography

Meet Our New CEO: Jacqueline Martinez Garcel

Jacqueline MG Picture

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel

1. What is the one word that best describes you?


2. When are you happiest?

There are two times I’m happiest. When I’m with family and when I’ve accomplished my goals.

3. Tell us about your family:

My husband and I both have a pretty big family. My mother had 16 siblings and my father had 18. And, on average, each of them have 2-3 kids. There is no differentiating between immediate and extended family. Everybody is immediate family! I have one sister but my cousins are also like my sisters and brothers.  It’s a beautiful thing!

My family is incredibly loving, loyal, and generous. Their greatest desire is to share everything they have with others and help one another achieve their greatest potential. They are full of life and greatly enjoy celebrating it together…especially around great food and good music!

When I was 8 years old, we moved to the Dominican Republic. We moved back to New York three years later because of the political unrest in the country. But those three years were among the  most memorable part of my life. There was such warmth and love amongst the people and I deeply appreciated the time to immerse myself in the richness of the Dominican culture.

4. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Perhaps one of the toughest challenges for me was uprooting and leaving my family to go away to college. Growing up in a tightly knit family, it was hard to let go of the comforts of home. It was also tough because I had spent a large portion of my life going to public schools in under-resourced neighborhoods and I was stepping into an Ivy League school where the majority of people had been trained to excel in a highly competitive environment.  But once I was there, perseverance, hard work and the love of family—though far—kept me going and I learned to thrive in my new environment.

5. How would your friends describe you?

They would say that I’m passionate and determined. Given the opportunities and privilege that I have been given, I am committed to affect change so that others can have the same opportunities I have been afforded in my lifetime.  Those that know me, know that I hold fast to two scripture verses that say “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” These verses drive my determination and fuel the passion to change the status quo.

6. What was your favorite childhood meal?

I love anything with plantains. I especially love Mofongo!  I also love pasteles en hoja, they are the Dominican version of tamales.

7. What life experience has strengthened you the most?

It’s hard for me to separate my upbringing and the places where I’ve been able to grow from this question.  I was born in New York where I witnessed the grit and weight of living an urban-dense city where equity—or lack thereof was a constant struggle.  Some people would want to wish that all away. Not me. I am privileged to have experienced that grit and exposure to the struggle of family and neighbors. It has made me who I am today.

8. What is your superpower?

Tough question. The first thing that comes to mind is compassion–the ability to empathize with people from all walks of life. Connecting with people at the deepest levels and then using that power to push for change.

9. What are the two most important Latino issues to you and why?

The first, by far, is education. I am convinced that education is the pathway to breaking the cycle of poverty. We need to focus on getting the graduation—both at the high school and at the highest level of education— rates to rise. We are in a historic and fast-paced season of change in this State and in the country. The exponential growth of technology brings along a myriad of opportunities and open doors—and we must be ready for it. We must have a generation ready to thrive and excel in this new environment.

The second issue would be civic engagement. Getting people energized, engaged, and involved in every aspect of policy, civic, and community life is critically important. Without those two things, we can’t move forward. For me, these are not just Latino issues; these are highly important American issues. As the fastest growing population, we have a great deal to contribute to the economic growth and success of this country.

10. Who is your hero and why?

Hmm. That’s another tough question because I don’t really have someone I would call a hero. I do have several people that I deeply admire for different reasons.  One person that comes to mind right now is Maya Angelou. I really admire her ability to use the power of words to change the hearts and minds of people. I believe that’s where real change happens. Changing laws and legislations is at times the easier thing to do. But people must embrace that change and be willing to live out in every aspect of their lives. People like Maya Angelou have used the power of words to do just that—for people across different generations, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and income status.

Lin-Manuel Miranda also comes to mind. He is a young  Puerto Rican actor, composer, and playwright who infused the language of his generation to creatively communicate the essence of culture, history, social justice to the masses. He did it with the Broadway hit “In the Heights” and is doing it again with “Hamilton.” He touches the core of people’s hearts—people of all background, age, and ethnicity. That’s very powerful to me.

11. What is your proudest accomplishment?

That would probably be the most recent accomplishment where I was part of a small but effective team that helped to build and launch one of the largest Health Foundations in the State of New York. I am proud that we created systems that impact lives of people in tangible and meaningful ways. On a very personal level, I also have several ‘Godchildren’ who grew up in tough places and who are now thriving in life. I hope that I have influenced and inspired them along the way. I am a firm believer that it does take a village to raise a child.

12. What are the three things you hope to accomplish during your first 100 days as CEO?

I have a lot more than three but these are probably my biggest priority:

  1. Establish a strong rapport with the Staff.
  2. Get in the field. I want to meet with the Giving Circle donors, our partners and our grantees. I want to meet the people that care most about our success. This is why I am here.
  3. I am committed to scaling the work of LCF. This is a powerful organization with a very important niche. For me, it’s not enough to think about the next 5 years. It’s about the legacy of this Foundation. In the next 100 days, I want to get us in a firm path of growth—growing our impact, establishing our statewide presence and creating our endowment.

To read Jacqueline’s full biography, please click here.

Latinos, Get Out the Vote // Local Elections Matter!

Woman Voting










Did you know that Latinos make up 38%  of the state’s total population…but only 17% of likely voters? 

Tomorrow, San Francisco voters will be asked to decide on a number of important municipal and local ballot measures pertaining to the city’s affordable housing crisis and various other issues that affect Latino families. Are you going to vote? If you aren’t able to, because of your legal status, how can you inspire others to do so?

Local Elections matter. The Latino voice and participation really matters. In reality, your vote for mayor, sheriff and affordable housing propositions will probably affect your day to day life more so than next year’s presidential race.

On Election Day, November 3rd, we must find the time to vote. Not only is it our right, but it is our civic duty.  Your vote, or lack of vote, sends a message to those who are elected to represent our interests.

The Latino vote continues to grow!  We have an incredible opportunity to make our voices heard. Be sure to get to the polls on November 3rd!

The League of Women Voters of San Francisco provides a non-partisan analysis of the San Francisco Elections below:


“If you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain!”