Sergio Luna went from a life as an at risk youth in San Bernardino to working with parents of at risk youth with the Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC). One of ICUC’s goals is to encourage parents in minority communities to get involved in their children’s education. Currently Sergio trains parents in the San Bernardino area around the A-G requirements that are needed for their children to attend the University of California and Cal State University. The VOICE asked him a few questions on the work he does on behalf of the children and parents of San Bernardino:
Why is working with ICUC important?
I see the need to work at the grassroots level by building relationships with people in the community to empower our community members to take action on the issues that affect their day-to-day life. That is the reason why Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) is an important part of our community for that’s what they do best. They empower people of faith to transform and revitalize the Inland Empire by working in the civic arena for the common good.
ICUC is a faith based community organization that brings people together, from different backgrounds, religions and cultures, to work for positive change within their congregations, neighborhoods, schools and cities. Our values and faith call us to seek fairness and justice for our families, our neighbors and all those in need as we put our faith into action.
What is your definition of good leadership?
A good leader is able to see the strengths and areas where new leaders can grow so they can become powerful leaders as well. A good leader helps new leaders create a vision of a better community. A great leader always remembers the reason why they are doing all this. A great leader has faith, love, hope, and perseverance, and is also open to learn and empower others along their journey.
How is being a good leader beneficial for today’s youth?
Today our youth need good leaders. Good leaders need to come together to create solutions to the problems, policy and systemic barriers that affect our youth and really commit to work together to change it. Youth need to know that people believe in them and that many of us care about their future. I see the need for good leaders every day as I drive down in San Bernardino and I’m able to witness the levels of poverty, the amount of students who drop out of high school, and the systemic injustice against youth that pushes them to be in bad situations. I also see the good in people who do all they can to change this reality. Young people need to feel loved, cared for, and that we are investing in them with our actions and by treating them as potential professionals instead of potential criminals.
What life lessons did you learn and what challenges did you have to overcome growing up?
When I was growing up, I remember being dirt poor, and at times in my life I was homeless. Thanks to some family members we were able to stay in their homes until we got back on our feet. I was in a situation full of domestic violence and my mother ended up raising my two sisters and me, as we were escaping from a violent environment. I remember giving up hope, feeling abandoned by my father, no matter how hard I worked in getting good grades seeking his acceptance and love. I ended up finding that acceptance with friends who where in similar situations.
One of my friends got in trouble and had to do community service and picked a church close by his house. He invited me a few times and said they had a great place to hang out with a lot of youth just hanging out and having fun. That’s how I ended up being at Central City Lutheran Mission’s after-school program. During this time, I found a safe place with great mentors and friends where we created events and activities that brought a sense of community and unity between African American and Latino youth in one of the poorest areas in San Bernardino.
I was able to see that we all had similar problems and barriers and that we all had to come together to be able to change the reality of our neighborhood. It helped me see how bad politics have kept our communities apart instead of bringing us together to work for a common cause. I hope that a day not too far from today we are able to stand with each other and work together to bring the needed changes to improve the lives and future of our communities.