Overcoming Obstacles

RAVE's Luis Carmona is driven to ensure everyone has access to PLAY

Luis Carmona

Luis Carmona appeared to have it all.

He had just graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and had a full-time sales job in Yakima near his hometown.

By all appearances he had made it – a solid job, a degree and a chance to put down roots, but a chance decision to coach his younger brother’s flag football team changed his life forever.

"That one situation was like a lightbulb that helped me clearly see that people, especially people from communities near where I grew up in Yakima, have too many obstacles to opportunity,” he said. "Whether they can’t fill out an application easily or have a language barrier or don’t have just a few dollars to spare."

When trying to get kids to sign up for his flag football team, he discovered that many families didn’t know how to fill out forms online or didn’t have the ability to transport their kids to practices and games. Access to play that had seemed easy to Luis and his family, was a real obstacle and barrier within his community.

So, after some deep soul searching and with the encouragement of his mom, he left his job and went back to UW to pursue a Master’s of Education in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership. He thrived there and thanks to the program made his first connection with the RAVE Foundation. A connection that led to today where he is RAVE’s Communication and Development Coordinator.

"It’s hard to believe that what started back with trying organize flag football in Yakima has led me to a position at RAVE where every day I’m working to remove obstacles to play for kids all over the state," he said. "I feel like it is a match made in heaven. For me, this is so personal and so simple. I want to make sure kids have the access to play that they all deserve."

Luis’ role at RAVE, which started as a volunteer while at UW, has given him the opportunities he sought to make a difference on a scale that’s larger than he initially imagined. He even had the opportunity to go home as part of the grand opening for the RAVE mini-pitch in Yakima, where he was surrounded by friends and family who were able to see the impact his work has in RAVE communities.

Carmona likes to tell a story of his niece who now gets to use the mini-pitch at MLK Jr. Elementary School in Yakima and how honored he is to help her and her friends have access to a safe space to play and learn.

"There were times earlier when the boys wouldn’t let her play with them, but we made sure that everyone was welcome on the mini-pitch," Carmona said. "Going home now, I hear her say that the boys are letting her, and everyone, play. That was a big moment for me – knowing that I am helping someone close to me. I see myself in her. I take great pride in seeing her get to play on her own field and seeing her joy when she got her first soccer ball."

Seeing kids from his hometown thrive is what all of this is about for Carmona.

"We’ve built four mini soccer fields in Yakima at two elementary schools that are predominantly Hispanic and that’s huge to me," he said. "Those are kids who look like me, that sound like me and that are growing up the same way that I did. And that is all I want to do."

As part of his role with the RAVE Foundation, Carmona develops and oversees RAVE matchday and private event fundraising initiatives, manages and leads content creation for all RAVE channels, coordinates all aspects of RAVE external communications including email, website, social media and advertising, and serves as the main liaison between RAVE and its donors and board of trustees.

"Sticking to your passion, whether it is sports or cooking or singing or sneakers, whatever it is that you love to do – go toward that," Carmona said. "For me, it was sports – it was soccer and giving back. Sometimes I can’t believe that I found this career that lets me embrace both of those things."

Carmona credits his parents for the work ethic they instilled in him from a young age.

While most kids took advantage of weekends and breaks from school to play outside, Carmona and his siblings were out in the orchards of the Yakima Valley helping harvest fruit with their dad. It wasn’t about making money, rather more about lessons in work ethic. That work ethic has paid off many times over for Carmona, who credits his parents for helping push him to the heights he has reached.

Carmona plans to use his passion to make sure every kid has the same – or better – opportunities that he did and still enjoys today.

"Kids should have access to play whatever they want to play," he said. "It doesn’t have to be soccer … kids are kids and ultimately, they shouldn’t have the ability to play taken away from them because of obstacles that can be overcome with a little bit of help and support."