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This week, I learned of the passing of a young man I mentored when he was a kid.

Edgar Barboza, from East LA, was part of a theater program I co-founded while I was a student at UCLA back in 1999.

He was twelve when I first met him and immediately I knew I would like this kid.
In 2000, our program did the first ever theater exchange between the US and Cuba, bringing 12 American kids to Cuba for a month to live and collaborate with 12 Cuban kids. Edgar was one of them.

Nervous. A mama's boy, he didn't know if he could handle a month away from home.
I don't know if I remember if he had ever been out of the country, but living in Cuba for a month was a challenge for all of our kids.

Food was not in abundance. It was before cell phones, so we had to use a satellite phone. Kids only had one phone home a week, for 5 minutes.
One night, it was late, we had just ended rehearsals and I got word that Edgar was "acting up."

Under the Cuban moonlight, with no lights around us, Edgar and I had a "heart-to-heart" talk.

He was homesick. He wanted to see his mom. His brother. He wanted to go home.
Edgar and I sat outside for hours. He cried. He wanted out.

I told him that I would put him on a plane first thing in the morning. Although there was no way I was going to be able to do that, as there were very limited flights from Cuba to LA at the time (about once a week).
After a few hours, I gave him the best pep talk I think I've ever given someone in my life.

I told him that he could do it. That I believed in him. That I would show up for him. That I would be his "big brother" while he was away from his real big brother, who he LOVED.
Over the next few weeks, Edgar thrived.
He opened up.
He laughed,
he danced,
he played.

He was a kid in a foreign land. But he knew he had family by his side that would never give up on him.

I loved that kid.
All kids are special.
But Edgar was especially special.
The following summer Edgar took part in a program we did with South African kids. He was a leader. He was loved by all of the other kids. He shined.

I kept in touch with Edgar often as he grew up into adulthood and he never lost that spark. I was so damn proud of him.
Edgar Barboza suffered a terrible accident two weeks ago. He fought valiantly to stay with us. On Sunday August 4, 2019 his spirit elevated.

My heart aches for his big brother, his angelic mother and all his friends and family.

He will be forever missed.
As we mourn the loss of Edgar,
I am reminded to continue to...

Believe in young people.
Invest in young people.
Mentor young people.
Teach young people.
Learn from young people.
Listen to young people.
Support young people.
Inspire young people.
Follow young people.

RIP Barboza
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