Ervin Zalaya - Great Leaders Start Here

Reconnecting with Club Turns into Career

Boys & Girls Club Alumnus Says Success Starts by Doing These Three Things
Posted 08/09/2021 by Ervin Zalaya in Alumni

Whenever I speak to young people, I share three tips: Take initiative at all times, find out what your interests are, and prepare yourself. 

Those are the lessons I learned growing up at my Boys & Girls Club in east Los Angeles. Today, heeding that advice has landed me in places I'd never imagined, including a fulfilling job as a marketing analyst at Toyota Financial Services. And it all started at the Club.

Take Initiative

If I hadn't been part of the Boys & Girls Club — or taken the initiative to reconnect with the alumni network — I wouldn't have had access to the financial resources and supportive mentors that jump-started my career. 

I was in the process of transferring to a four-year university after community college when I came across a scholarship opportunity for Boys & Girls Club alumni. I applied for Toyota's Making Life Easier Scholarship Program, and that financial help made the difference in getting through school without taking on more hours at my part-time job. 

The scholarship I received also reconnected me with the Club, which is how I learned about Toyota’s partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and its internship program.  After college, I was hired on with Toyota as an intern which led to a position with the company, where I've been on staff now for a decade. 

Find Your Interests

Something I first learned at the Club was to speak up for what I wanted to learn. I came to the Club looking to play competitive basketball but also discovered other interests, like the computer lab and arts and crafts. 

As a college student and young graduate, the drive to explore my interests continued to grow. When I started my internship at Toyota, I was able to speak up about what I wanted to specialize in. I chose the legal department because I thought I wanted to study law. I learned there are so many jobs I had no idea existed. Once I saw firsthand what a corporate attorney does, I decided maybe that wasn't the right path for me. 

Through the internship and my time as a employee, I was able to navigate the organization and learn. I ended up in marketing, where I've been for about five years. I love it.

Prepare Yourself

My time as a Club kid also prepared me in less tangible ways for success. 

People at the Club really cared about me. My parents were incredible role models who worked long hours, so having adult mentors available to me made a big difference. I grew up in the inner city; it would have been easy to get caught up in something unproductive while my parents worked to provide for our family. The Club helped look after me and prepare me. It filled a void and helped me stay out of trouble, providing me a productive setting and offering resources I didn't have access to growing up.

Club life taught me to respect and interact with people who were different than me. The Club had kids from all over the city. Even today, I am comfortable communicating and working with people from all walks of life. 

Full Circle

Today in my marketing role at Toyota, I'm proud to work for a company that's so involved with the Boys & Girls Club and to have the opportunity to be part of that myself.

I volunteer with the internship program, share my story, and mentor interns as much as possible. I talk with Club kids about career opportunities and remind them to take initiative, find their interests, and prepare themselves — because a great future is possible for every young person who is willing to work for it.

Great Leaders Start Here

Research shows that when we introduce young children to the world of work, they're more likely to dream big and connect what they're learning to future career opportunities. Starting as early as age 6, Boys & Girls Clubs help young people like Ervin explore their passions and interests, develop employability skills, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Learn more about all the ways Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life.


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Did you know that 1 in 16 people living in America has been a member of a Boys & Girls Club like Ervin? If you've ever been a Club kid, join our free alumni community to connect to ongoing opportunities, events and each other. Learn more and become part of the Club after the Club.

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