If you build it – they will connect! A mantra Dante Alvarado has embodied since he was a toddler. Alvarado was born in the U.S., yet he grew up in what people commonly refer to as “La Frontera,” the border, in the cities of Chula Vista and Tijuana. When he was in elementary school, his mother decided to enroll him and his siblings in a U.S. grammar school. As he recounted to Ozy.com “as a young student, I’d wake up around 4 a.m. in Tijuana, Mexico, hustle into the car with my mom and two sisters and spend up to three hours waiting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. We lived only 15 minutes from the border, but it was a process. Since we were born in San Diego, we could attend a private elementary and middle school in the U.S., which my parents believed would provide more economic opportunity later in life.”
After grammar and high school, Alvarado would go on to attend U.C. Berkley, where would major in business administration. During these undergraduate years he would also intern at Facebook. An experience Alvarado credits with helping him learn how to connect billions of people, build and launch products. This along with what he terms a passion for problem solving and entrepreneurial spirit lead to his first venture. A tech platform to connect companies with nonprofits. The effort was recognized by the Manos Accelerator in Silicon Valley and was a finalist for the Hult Prize 2015 Social Enterprise Challenge.
Yet, Dante was just getting started. During his years at U.C. Berkeley he recounted about how many of his friends were first-generation college students. As most students do, they would chat about the dreams and careers they wanted to pursue. Alvarado observed that often, success or failure would be based on luck, in the form of one great professor or one internship that happened by chance. A chance that would often dictate the career path they’d follow. Lightbulb! Why weren’t more resources available to help students identify the best career paths for themselves?
However, perhaps Alvarado’s statement to The Aspen Institute best encompasses why he is one our Men of the Year, “my aim is to build ladders, not walls, for students, people, and communities to prosper and help each other grow.”