Dear those who have loved and supported Central Valley Scholars and Myself,
It is with mixed emotions and a heavy heart that I write this farewell letter to you today. After nearly 5 years since founding Central Valley Scholars (CVS), I have decided that it is time for me to step down from my role as CEO. This decision has not been made lightly, and I want to take a moment to reflect on the incredible journey we have been on together.
We started Central Valley Scholars with a wish; a wish to heal and support our younger selves to have the opportunities and resources we deserve. A wish to create educational spaces where we feel seen, where we feel valued, where the curriculum is centered with our identities and needs, and where we are given the opportunity and autonomy to dream beyond our horizons. A wish to go to spaces, not because we have to, but because we feel loved and share the common desire to build community with those around us.
And we have succeeded. Not only has Central Valley Scholars provided programmatic and financial support to thousands of students across the Valley, but our focus on humanity and loving people for being people has created a radical lens on how we dream of academic spaces. Our work makes students feel seen, makes students feel valued, and creates the opportunity for students to learn to love themselves and others; which in turn, has created allies across different oppressed communities.
Starting the organization at the age of 19, I have grown alongside CVS. The organization was with me when I became the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, the organization became my first job out of college, and the organization was also with me as I learned to navigate and grow in the world as a Trans Woman.
I have served as a Trans Educator during a time in which in the Central Valley, and across the nation, Trans people are being targeted and shamed in and beyond the classroom (as what Bakersfield Unified School District did to Olivia Garrison).
As a Trans Woman doing this work, at this time and in this way… it’s revolutionary. I have felt and understood how my sole presence in the classroom has created space and opportunity for not only other people in the Queer community, but other women as well. And as impactful this work has been, I have also realized that institutions of academia were learning how to be better allies to Trans people at the expense of my harm.
As I leave Central Valley Scholars, I hope to rest, heal, and find community somewhere in the world. The love and care I have for this work and mission still stands true, and I look forward to cheering CVS on the sidelines.
To Our Students:
The hardest part of my departure is saying goodbye to you. Growing up in rural and many times underfunded school districts in the Central Valley, I know what it feels like to be unsupported and abandoned by teachers, administrators, and folxs I looked to as a resource.
Please know that my decision to leave Central Valley Scholars has nothing to do with you. I want to affirm that my love and support for you still stands true. You are incredibly brilliant, kind, powerful human beings, and it was an honor to support you in the time I did.
My decision to leave Central Valley Scholars was a very personal reflection on my goals, needs, and dreams for the future; and unfortunately, they no longer match the role of CEO for Central Valley Scholars. If anything, I hope my departure teaches you that leadership is not about endless sacrifice. Alignment with self comes first, and you have the power to leave anything that is no longer serving you (even an organization you founded!).
To Current, Future, and Potential Funders:
While I am leaving as CEO for Central Valley Scholars, please know that my dreams and support for the organization to continue to grow and flourish has not. Our organization has served as a vital resource for students across the Valley, and your continued support for our organization is continued support for our students.
Under new leadership, things will look different and this is okay! Central Valley Scholars is in an era of change, and we hope you can embrace this change, growth, and are excited for its future and potential.
While Central Valley Scholars was born by my personal story, this organization was never mine. My work and efforts these past five years were always for the community, and I am honored to pass the baton to new leadership.
I have full confidence that Central Valley Scholars will continue to thrive and make a lasting impact. Our mission is too important, and our community is too strong for anything less. Please join me in welcoming our new Board Chair, Cindy Chavez, who will lead CVS during this transition period. Cindy brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to our mission, and I am confident that CVS is in capable hands (see our current team).
While this farewell marks the end of one chapter, it also signals the beginning of new adventures for both me and CVS. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have led this organization, and I look forward to staying connected with this incredible community.
Thank you once again for your unwavering support, your dedication to our mission, and the countless memories we have shared. I leave with a heart full of gratitude and hope for a bright future for CVS. For any folxs who would like to reach me personally, you are welcome to connect with me on Linkedin and/or email me at email@example.com.
With warmest regards,
Cristina Piña (She/Her)
Founder & Outgoing CEO of Central Valley Scholars