Benjamin Torres, CDTech President and Chief Executive Officer
Benjamin Torres, President and CEO of the Community Development Technologies Center (CDTech), cites farmworkers leader Cesar Chavez and African-American Muslim minister Malcolm X as two of his greatest inspirations. He said their contributions and the work of others had inspired him to commit his life to building up, “the capacity of individuals and communities to overcome the income and racial divide by working together and committing themselves to address systemic conditions in communities.” Torres lives in his native Echo Park neighborhood with his long-time partner, Juana Mora, and his daughters, Aurelia and Camila Valentina. For him, the best way to create change in any community is to work with, “grassroots residents, stakeholders and community leaders to develop common goals that bring us together and focus on creating space for democratic discussion… Engaging people is a critical part of the process.”
CDTech is a job training and leadership and economic development nonprofit in South Los Angeles, a largely African-American and Latino low-income area. Torres joined CDTech in 2002 and became President and CEO in 2010. According to an article in Policylink.org in June 2014, it has partnered with other nonprofits to replicate its program in Oakland and Fresno, both in California. “We partner with local businesses and anchor institutions, like [University of Southern California], hospitals, and downtown developers, so we can be at the table during the planning phase and train residents to take advantage of opportunities,” Torres told Policylink.org. Before joining CDTech, Torres worked with the Multi-Cultural Education Consortium in Santa Barbara, served as the Youth Leadership Director for La Casa de la Raza, also in Santa Barbara, and was Project Director for the MultiCultural Collaborative Community School Initiative in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. He also gives back to the community by serving as a board member of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) in Los Angeles; TRUST South L.A., and For Chicana/o Studies Foundation. He holds a master’s in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University. “I believe I am part of a continuous movement of individuals that sacrificed so much to provide me an opportunity to go to college, develop my leadership skills and be part of a community of Givers trying to change the conditions that exist in our Latino communities,” he wrote in response to a question from Hispanics in Philanthropy. “We stand on the shoulders of so many who fought to give us opportunities,” he added. “We need to do the same for those yet to come.”
The 31 HIPGivers recognized in 2015 are collectively altering the landscape for our country. They are pushing the envelope by asking for more – more consideration, more awareness, more compassion, more action, more giving.