Providing Our Future Leaders with Guidance

“Your inspiration is your daughter. She wouldn’t want you to stop writing,” a friend told Frank Carbajal over the phone in 2005 when he decided to quit writing his book Building the Latino Future, because his baby daughter had a near death experience.

Carbajal, 42 years-old and father of three daughters, born in El Centro, Calif., began the manuscript for his book in 2002 and finished in 2007. The release date was 2008 cinco de mayo.

Crabajal is the youngest of five children and from a very loud house hold.

“I wasn’t inspired as a youth to write, at all. Because Spanish was my first language, the school thought I was special ed.” His mother and sister advocated for him in school, that language had nothing to do with his intelligence.

His parents, Regino Carbajal from Guadalajara and Hermelinda Carbajal from Jalpa, were seasonal farm workers in a bracero program and were introduced to each other by their compadres in Mexico. They married in El Centro in 1963 and relocated to East San Jose when Frank was four years-old. His father received a job at Stokley’s Cannery located, then off of Newhall and The Alameda, and his mother worked at Del Monte cannery.

An important life lesson, he says “To excel in school is to be inquisitive.”

Carbajal dealt with cultural, language, and institutional challenges while growing up. He was in speech therapy in the Evergreen School District, which helped him learn English. His first mentor and speech therapist, Ms. Sanders was very culturally aware and knew he was from the barrio. She told him to use his inside voice and that he could be a good student, encouraged him to continue to speak English with confidence, and to not be afraid to ask questions.

In the words of Ms. Sanders, “To be successful in education was the only way to go.”

He attended Cadwallader Elementary School where he recalls, “In fifth grade, I became acculturated to the main stream; what taught me the lessons of America was pop culture, with my favorite music from Michael Jackson, ACDC, and The Scorpions; so two genres, rock and popping.”

Carbajal also attended Leyva Middle School in 1981-1984 and mentions that it was predominately Caucasian. “It was difficult, because after school I had to go back to my home environment and I was confused … surrounded by the kids from the Creekside area (during the day at school) and went back to the barrio where my home was surrounded by gangs. It was a challenge because my own brother was a gang member. But I owe all the love to him because he protected me and saw that I had potential to do well in school.”

Carbajal began to change in middle school and was voted the funniest guy in 8th grade. He says, “I used humor as a coping mechanism like comedians George Lopez and Cheech Marin.”

In nineth grade at Silver Creek High School he was a talented soccer player; he tried out and made it on to the varsity team, but he started cutting school and lost focus.

In his junior year, he joined the school cross country team where he met Coach Paul Kilkenny who was his next mentor. Some of his closest friends were incarcerated and fell into “the system.” Carbajal separated himself from his neighborhoodand made new friends who were on the team. He received The Most Improved Runner award.

His high school English teacher Mrs. Holtclaw asked the class to write a journal entry about an 80 year-old Silver Creek tree and what the tree meant to the school because it was to be cut down. Carbajal titled his story “The Topless Tree.”

When she pulled him aside, “Frank, can I see you?” He thought he was being reprimanded but was surprised because she said, “I love the title. How did you come up with it?” She inspired and encouraged him to write more.

As his confidence grew through his hard work and with the support of his mentors, he decided to go to college towards the end of high school and enrolled at Evergreen Community College in San Jose, Calif. There he joined the Enlace Program, where he identified with other Latino students and transferred to San Jose State. He originally wanted to be a teacher but was too shy to speak in public, so he did his undergraduate studies in social work and pursued the Masters of Social Work for a year; he left and changed majors and received his Masters of Arts in Human Resources Management. He is the only one in his family to graduate from college.

“It takes a lot of tenacity to write a book,” says Carbajal and adds that he couldn’t have done it without the support of his wife Molly Carbajal.

He refers to his friend as “Harold,” an author of a book on African Americans who told Carbajal that he needed to write a book addressing the misperception of all Latinos being in gangs and drug. “So I created the framework on Latinos in leadership doing great things … and that we are contributing to the U.S. economy; just as I thought back in school, we are now a part of pop culture.”

Frank Carbajal | Photo by Patricia Ruiz

Building the Latino Future was published by Ken Blanchard and Wiley and Sons in NY and translated to Spanish where El Futuro Latino: Historias de Exito en el Extranjero where it was published by Grupo Norma published in 14 Latin American countries.

Writing the book was just the beginning. Not only is Carbajal now a mentor, but his leadership and communications talents were sought out to provide speakers for a Harvard University Leadership event. Dick Gonzales, Richard Leza, and Roberto Medrano Latinos showed him that Latinos are successful outside of Silicon Valley, throughout the U.S. Gonzales suggested that Carbajal do the same here in the Valley so the inaugural Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit was in 2010. The goal is to bring to bring some of the most talented people to Stanford to provide not only their leadership, mentorship to individuals who are university students, middle management folks, senior leaders who want to make changes in their community and abroad and to see how the Latino Leaders do for the next 10 years, projection of where we can go from 2010 to 2020.

Next Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit is May, 19, 2012. To find out more about Frank Carbajal and the Summit visit the SVLLS Blog:

Written By Eydie Mendoza | Photos By Patricia Ruiz