International Surfing Association (ISA) President Fernando Aguerre recently presented as the keynote speaker for The San Diego Youth Leadership & Dialog Summit Series, a new pilot program that aims to foster entrepreneurship amongst young students, regardless of background in San Diego County.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre behind the “Sands of the World,” a symbol of the peaceful gathering of nations through the love of surfing, at the recent ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Nicaragua. Aguerre created this ceremony many years ago and it has inspired thousands of athletes who have competed in ISA events.
On an early Saturday morning in April, Fernando captivated the audience of twelve to fourteen years olds, many who had to wake before dawn to get to University of San Diego’s Mother Rosalie Hall, where the presentation was held.
Most of the kids were from inner city schools near City Heights, and most were Latino. The rest were from academies like Bishops and La Jolla Country Day.
“Keep your dreams close to your happiness,” Fernando told the captivated audience. “Your roots, your culture, what others may see as your limitations, these can be your strengths,” he added while showing a slide show of images he used to tell his story.
Fernando started with images of his family in Argentina where he grew up. He spoke about the time when surfing was illegal, and was once called out of the water from surfing by a solider that stood on the beach and shot a gun into the air. It’s a vision that left a lot of young mouths open in the audience.
Afterwards, the former lawyer turned entrepreneur and humanitarian, showed imagery of surfing. Surfing, Fernando illustrated showed, led to a business (the founding of Reef, which he started with only $4,000) as well as a lifestyle that has taken Fernando all over the world. It’s also lead him to become president of the ISA, and to meet some amazing people, including fellow surfer, President Obama.
Throughout the presentation, Fernando continued to stress the idea of love. “You have to work hard to do well in business, but if you love what you do, working hard will never feel like work,” remarked Aguerre.
“Fernando is not someone you would get as your average social studies teacher,” said Steve Chapple, Co-Director for the event who writes the “Intellectual Capital” column in the San Diego Union Tribune. “He’s fun, he has a great grasp of business, history, geography and anthropology, and he expresses it all with a passion that is infectious! More than a few kids realized he had motivated them to take their own ideas and make them happen,” Chapple added.
After Fernando’s presentation, students broke off into groups lead by USD mentors, to collaborate on large-scale projects of their own inspiration and design. The students have been meeting every month and will present their projects this June, when Mayor Filner and Superintendent of Schools, Cindy Marten, as well as Fernando Aguerre and previous other speakers, will present awards to the students.
The San Diego Youth Leadership & Dialog Summit Series was brought together by a variety of partners, including Susan Guinn’s Kids’ Eco-Club, Public Conversations West with Meenakshi Chakraverti, the USD School of Leadership with Zachary Green, Chapple’s Intellectual Capital, Price Charities and the Invention Foundation.
Besides Fernando, previous speakers have included John Gartman, the inventor and intellectual property lawyer who used to counsel Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Adrianna Herrera, founder of FashioningChange.Com. The pilot for this year started this March and runs through June. Next year, the program will expand to include even more students.