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This year, Larta made a commitment to being lifelong learners and leaders in innovation and technology. These two “L” words emerged in my involvement with establishing Larta’s Core Values. These values have guided my personal growth and I am excited that they now have subsequently revealed themselves in my professional development at Larta.

Taking on the joint roles of learner and leader led me to organize a tour for Larta staff to an area of Watts-Willowbrook of an institutional beacon of the South Los Angeles community, Charles Drew University (CDU).

CDU, a Historically Black Graduate Institution (HBGI), has been committed to social justice, health equity, and educating future medical professionals since its incorporation in 1966. In fact, nearly one third of practicing minority physicians residing in LA County are CDU graduates.

In 2013, during my second year as a Master of Social Welfare student, I had the honor of learning about CDU through the Luskin Senior Fellow Program, a mentoring program housed in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs. I met the President of CDU, Dr. David Carlisle, at the Senior Fellow Breakfast. Although Dr. Carlisle was not my assigned mentor, he took me under his wing and adopted me as so, and for this I am grateful.

Five years later, I maintain my mentoring relationship with Dr. Carlisle. He has encouraged me to seek out opportunities for learning by exploring continued education and inspires me to act with compassion and empathy in all spaces that I choose to enter, even if those spaces are different to previous environments I was comfortable with as a social worker. Furthermore, as I develop as a leader at Larta, I am driven to self-reflect on how to lift as I climb this professional ladder. I am the daughter of Cambodian Asylees who struggled in poverty. And I am motivated by Larta’s mantra to “feed, fuel, and heal the world” and to think about how I must “do well and” simultaneously “do good,” in the words of our CEO Rohit Shukla.

Dr. Carlisle and our other gracious tour hosts, Ms. Sylvia Drew Ivie, the daughter of Dr. Charles Drew, and Dean Hector Balcazar fit the bill as mentors and inspiring local leaders. This tour allowed us to engage in dialogue about how the intersection of the personal, professional, and political makes for transformative collective social impact.

The tour was the first step for Larta Staff to be exposed to a local institution with deep roots in serving under-resourced and marginalized populations in LA County and I look forward to seeing how our two organizations can partner to further serve LA. Given Larta’s network,services and commitment to supporting entrepreneurs in the health, agricultural, and bio-life sciences sector, I am confident that more opportunities to collaborate with institutions like CDU will be in the pipeline.

I would like to formally thank the CDU welcoming committee and urge all of you to also check out their work for yourself by visiting: www.cdrewu.edu