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Name: Orson Aguilar

Hometown: Los Angeles (Boyle Heights), CA

Current City: Oakland, CA

Current Job: Executive Director, The Greenlining Institute

CHCI Program/Year: Fellow 1997-1998 (Interned at the office of Lucille Roybal-Allard and at ACCION International)

1. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?

Inspired by CHCI, I completed my Master’s Degree in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The experience I gained at CHCI made graduate school easier and more understandable. I was able to contribute real world experiences to the classroom.

Upon finishing my Master’s Degree in Texas, I moved to Northern California to take a Program Manager position at the Greenlining Institute. I thought this would be a two year job that would prepare me for my next career move. Ten years later when the founders of Greenlining retired, I became the second Executive Director of the organization’s history. This was not in my master plan and this was not something I even considered when I arrived to Greenlining. But I couldn’t think of a more perfect job given my interests.

I got married three years ago to Dr. Claudia Canizales (now Claudia Aguilar). We now have two beautiful children. Emilio recently turned 2 and Nayeli is 3 months.

2. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?

CHCI made me realize that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard and follow your vision. I met Latinos that were doing extraordinary things in government, the non-profit sector and in government.

However, CHCI also instilled in me a sense of urgency given that I saw many prominent positions where Latinos were absent.

CHCI also demonstrated to me the power of people working across sectors and the importance of public-private partnerships.

I often say, CHCI is my well connected “Tia” that catapulted my career by allowing me into “her” network. As a child of immigrants, I didn’t have the community or family connections that CHCI has afforded me.

3. How have you stayed engaged in community service?

My entire career has been devoted to community service. Outside of my work at Greenlining I serve on other boards and commissions that help make positive social change.

4. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?

Don’t “over plan” your career. Let your vision take you forward and be open to new opportunities that you never knew existed. Our world is constantly changing and new jobs emerge each day that didn’t exist before. These are the jobs you want.

It is extremely important to make and maintain strong networks. Always continue to meet people and establish meaningful connections with them. Climbing your career ladder is difficult without strong networks.

Finally, don’t let ambitions of making money be your primary purpose in life. I strongly believe that the money will follow if you follow your vision and choose a career that you enjoy.

5. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

Five years from now I see myself having more impact in the field of social change. My experience, skills, and growing networks will make this possible.