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Eddie González-Novoa: From Entrepreneur to Leader, and Back

Bold Idea: When a passionate and multi-faceted Echoing Green Fellow listened to his heart, he found himself transitioning from a successful leader of a national nonprofit to taking on a supporting role in his nephew’s fledgling social enterprise.

When asked what one thing he is passionate about, Eddie González-Novoa (EG ’97) answered, “Why just one?” The former Co-founder of Jumpstart New York, Executive Director of New York Public Allies, and Director of After School Services at the Hetrick-Martin Institute has made a career nurturing and combining multiple passions, and allowing his career to evolve alongside his new experiences and interests.

Eddie is now taking another step in re-defining himself by moving from his long-time home in New York City to Houston, TX, to support his eighteen year-old nephew in starting a new organization. The Survivor Games provides an online community for cancer patients through the healing power of video games.

Eddie describes his nephew, Steven González: “He is a cancer survivor himself and his personal story inspired him to start this organization. While he’s an amazing nephew, I didn’t see his vision until I watched his TEDx talk streaming live… At that moment, I realized that I had spent the last five years at Public Allies telling everyone that young people can lead and I had to ask myself ‘Eddie, do you really believe that enough to follow one of them?’ And I realized that I did.”“At Public Allies, I ran a leadership development program for young adults eighteen to thirty,” Eddie reflects. “We would ask them to take huge risks, like enter a setting that was unknown to them and be open to possibility and real change.” In asking himself to do the same, he realized that “the boundaries I had created for myself were my identity as a New Yorker, and as a leader, and I thought, ‘Can I push myself to redefine my identity outside of those boundaries?’ At the same time, I saw this amazing potential in this young person, who also just happens to be my nephew, and it all just fit together.”

Eddie considers that perhaps his whole life has been a set up for this moment. “To use a technology metaphor, it was like there were always programs running in the background of my life. I never stopped being a dancer, or a pre-school educator, or a pastor, even if I only had one window open, which was my current job.”

“Little did I know in 1995 that studying play therapy would lead to using video games as a healing modality for teenagers, and that getting an Echoing Green Fellowship for starting JumpStart would give me the tools I need to launch a new venture. Little did I know that leading board development at Public Allies would help me with working for an eighteen year-old. Little did I know that working in youth development at Hetrick-Martin would equip me to think about teenagers with cancer. Little did I know that when my nephew was diagnosed with cancer I would be helping him develop his own nonprofit before he would even graduate from high school.”

Eddie also knows that this experience of working with Steven to develop The Survivor Games just might lead him to another new challenge. At which point, we have no doubt he will continue to follow his heart.

Be Bold: Consider whether each stage in your life or your career might be leading you toward something unexpected. Think about how open you might be to risks and pushing your boundaries, and see whether you will be ready to take a leap of faith when a new opportunity presents itself.

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