Christina Cuevas, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County Program Director
Juan Sepúlveda has been working and advocating for his community since before the age of 16. When most teenagers are concerned with prom dates and Friday night football games, Sepúlveda was busy being the first ever high school student hired to work for the Kansas Secretary of State.
Since then, Sepúlveda’s commitment to public service has increased exponentially, and he has embraced improving Latino communities, large and small.
“By sharing our strengths,” he said, “we bring more than just money to the table; we bring, more importantly, ourselves to the challenges our community faces.”
Currently PBS Senior Vice President of Station Services, he has also served as the Senior Advisor for Hispanic Affairs for the Democratic National Committee and was the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. He also developed a national strategy consulting organization called The Common Enterprise, which has sought to frame political and social debates from a non-partisan, community perspective.
“I believe we all have something to give, to share, with our communities,” he said. “All we have to do is figure out what moves us, what makes us feel alive and, as long as we bring that spirit into our neighborhoods, everything will be fine.”
Sepúlveda is only the third Latino to have become a Rhodes Scholar. He holds bachelors’ degrees from Harvard and Oxford, and a doctorate from the Stanford Law School.
He grew up in a working class, Mexican-American neighborhood in Topeka, Kan., with his mother as a strong role model and inspiration.
“… She made sure we understood that we were part of a larger community and that we had a responsibility to take care of one another,” he said and cited their participation in an annual tradition at their local church.
“I always remember families taking vacation time during the summer, so we could help run our annual Fiesta Mexicana — a week-long celebration of our culture — where all the money raised went to keeping our neighborhood school open.”
When asked how others can inspire giving in their own communities, Sepúlveda quoted Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” “By bringing love into the picture,” he added, “we change everything.”