Erik Estrada (he/him)
As a teacher, Erik Estrada felt limited in his ability to impact the lives of his students. He knew he needed a more holistic understanding of the societal and systemic challenges they were facing everyday. He needed to strengthen his leadership capacity in order to more effectively answer his call to service as an educator. However, when he found National Urban Fellows, a chance to upskill became an opportunity to reimagine the trajectory of his career entirely.
“The degree is just one piece of it, but I’ve always said, National Urban Fellows opened up doors and helped me sit at tables that I didn’t even know existed,” Erik said.
National Urban Fellows always contended that the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector is limited when grantmakers lack connection with the systemic injustices they are trying to alleviate.
Erik did his fellowship at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an experience he wouldn’t have ever considered a possibility.
“Folks aren’t usually given the chance to get into the philanthropy space,” said Erik. “And yet philanthropies are holding resources that can really change the way people in our communities live.”
As a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Erik was afforded the opportunity to multiply his impact by applying his lived experience and experience as an educator in communities to transform how funding could be a tool for equity.
“The network, the exposure, and the opportunities. I could’ve gotten a degree anywhere if that’s all I wanted. Without a doubt, I can say that I would not have made the connections, met the people, met the institutions and organizations that I’ve worked with for the last 15 years, if it weren’t for National Urban Fellows.”
Today, Erik’s ability to change lives in his community has exceeded the reach of his former classroom. He serves as a Community Manager at Community Foundation of South Jersey, where he is building the infrastructure for a new people-first model for philanthropic engagement.