Eli is a proud Mexican-American, an aspiring entrepreneur, and a first-generation U.S. citizen and college attendee. Since 2012, she has been providing tax assistance to low-income families at no cost. Anyone who talks to Eli can tell that there is no limit to how much she can accomplish when she sets her mind to something.
Eli, a member of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), is currently in her first year at Long Island University Post. With support from the Jane Goodall Institute,, members of the NYLC, including Eli, receive leadership training and guidance from Roots & Shoots staff, which they then share with hundreds of thousands of Roots & Shoots members around the world as JGI youth representatives.
Eli is an extremely motivated individual, happy to share her story and explain how she came to be the compassionate leader she is today.
Name: Elizabeth “Eli” Avila Ramirez
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Exemplary Compassionate Leadership Skills/Traits:
Adaptable & Resilient
Favorite Book: “House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende
Favorite Song: “Flawless” by Beyoncé, featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What is your favorite Roots & Shoots project that you’ve worked on?
My favorite R&S project I have worked on has to be VITA, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at Santa Barbara High School. This program is extremely valuable not only because of the work we do and the impact we can see in our community, but also the impact on our volunteers. Our entire program is student-run and managed, meaning that teenagers as young as 13 to 18-years-old are learning how to prepare someone’s taxes. All of our customers are qualifying low to middle-income families that wouldn’t be able to afford a regular accounting service. With this opportunity, volunteers receive customer service skills, sensitivity training, volunteer hours, and an incredible internship with the IRS.
What has been one of your failures that has taught you something valuable?
One of my first failures was around the time I started organizing events for my group. The truth is, I had no experience what so ever managing so many people and having to schedule everyone was a nightmare. No matter how horrible I thought my event was going in the beginning, by the end I had a group of people to count on for help. Now, managing an event, although still stressful, is a little easier; I know people are able to support me.
What inspires you to be an activist? How did you get started in this work?
Coming from a different kind of lifestyle, my parents always believed that keeping busy and finding something my older brother and I were passionate about would keep us out of trouble. I started getting involved from a young age helping teachers at my elementary school. After that my love for helping my community just never stopped.
Apart from the work and the effect it has on a community, my motivation is being able to show people the impact I have on others. I remember growing up thinking that I didn’t have any role models that looked like me, or who had the same struggles I did. I hope to be a role model for first generation citizens to show that we do make a difference.”
What advice do you have for other young people who want to get involved in their communities or make a difference for the world?
The truth is if we all took the time to volunteer and give just one hour of our time each week or each month, our community would be more united and would have the power to address issues. If you can’t find a group of people that do what you like, then start one. If you have a passion for something, I guarantee you that at least one other person does too. As Dr. Jane Goodall says, “What you do makes a difference, you just have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
Eli is Introspective, Empathetic, and Adaptable & Resilient. In fact, she possesses all of the skills and traits of a compassionate leader. Fostering these traits in young people is our way of working toward a better future — one where leaders from the playground to the boardroom make decisions that are good for people, other animals, and the environment. Read more about compassionate leadership skills and traits here.
To learn more about influential young leaders like Eli, check out the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). Want more hands-on advice? Educators and Roots & Shoots groups can invite Eli or another member of the NYLC to visit or Skype with their classroom/group to talk about their Roots & Shoots work and share tips for a future service campaign! Click here to learn more.
Educators, we’ve designed a free, online course to support you as you grow compassionate leaders through service learning. Join the course.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.