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Giving a person housing, a library or a meal is fine, but most often all a person needs is a job. When a person is given that, he or she can use it to make more for themselves than you or I could ever imagine. This is what I have been privileged to watch through my friend Lydia.

The Jack Larson Award

My last blog post shared about Janet Napolitano’s amazing example of giving back through sharing her time and advice with me. It was in that same period that I had applied for another award. It all happened at once, SmileyGo, my cousin’s wedding in brazil, the UC Entrepreneur of the year sweepstakes, and the Jack Larson award.

Incredibly, they selected me. I had the honor of dining one on one with tech entrepreneur Jack Larson. This man founded Career Education Corporation. Under his leadership, the company expanded into 24 universities. It is now one of the world’s largest on-campus provider of private, for-profit post-secondary education, and the second-largest online education company. The Jack Larson award included a scholarship and access to resources useful in entrepreneurship, such as meeting spaces to assist SmileyGo’s ventures.

Jack is an incredibly personable man who gives the person in front of him his entire attention. He never once checked his phone as we ate lunch together. Jack profoundly communicated with his actions that people are important. He leads his life by the philosophy of giving back, he shared with me. Jack gave scholarships to young entrepreneurs in need so that they too could give back. I took these words to heart.

Investing in People

For years I have volunteered with the Youth Commission at San Jose by speaking to the students they work with. The Youth Commission empowers youth to engage more tangibly in their education and communities. They invite various tech entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to inspire students. Most of the students are immigrants, just like I am. In fact, many are from Hispanic backgrounds and have families that are not in the country. The idea of pursuing a career in a STEM field or entrepreneurship is intimidating. This is because of the extra challenges these students experience, having little family support and not speaking English as a first language.

It was at a speech in 2016 about the work I had done with SmileyGo, that I med Lydia. She was 17 years old. Her family had immigrated to the Bay Area from China.  I could tell she was bright and had a strong character.

There’s a lot of things you can give somebody, but the opportunity to work and get experience is one of the most precious. I had been given much, and I wanted to give back. I created an internship opportunity with SmileyGo so I could hire Lydia as an intern. That summer I mentored her through her work.

She applied all she had into the opportunity I gave her. It is amazing to see what she made out of it. Lydia recalls, “As a friend and a coach to me, [Pedro David] has continually galvanized me with his selflessness and optimism to pursue my passions and maintain a positive outlook.” The following fall she was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, and now studies business administration at Wharton. Jack Larson empowered me in entrepreneurship through this scholarship through which I could give a job to a worthy person.  As I look back, I see that I have been both inspired and blessed by taking part in this self-replicating model of giving.

Pedro Espinoza with Lydia. Giving with the Jack Larson Award

Pedro David Espinoza with Lydia.