By Para Los Niños Team

June 14, 2024

Kevin Liao works as a Staff Analyst for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. There, he manages budgets for many of the department’s divisions, including the Mobile Vaccine Team. Kevin’s long and winding career path began in the summer before his junior year of high school, when he first learned of Para Los Niños (PLN) and the paid internships offered by Youth Workforce Services (YWS). 

Like most kids his age, Kevin had never held a job before, so YWS staff held financial literacy seminars to teach the basics of saving and offered Kevin and his fellow interns a stipend to shop for professional attire. They also took time to learn what fields interested Kevin most. After sharing his curiosity for law enforcement and political science, Kevin was set up in an intern position at the LA county courthouse. It was a formative experience, both as an introduction to the working world, and an opportunity to hone his skills. 

“It was nothing like being in the movies where you get to listen to court cases or see the prisoners. It was a lot of paperwork, managing files, but it really made me become more organized. It shaped my life to be more organized and pay attention to the small details.” 

After his internship, Kevin stayed in close contact with his career advisor, continuing to utilize YWS services like college application support and taking another paid position as a tutor for PLN students. He kept tutoring while earning his Bachelor of Science in Biology from CalState University. Initially, he planned to pursue a career in dentistry, but when the pandemic struck, he turned his attention to public health. Through the years, Kevin has demonstrated a rare measure of professional adaptability, which he credits in part to his upbringing. 

“I grew up in a community where adaptability was necessary for survival. I’m an inner-city kid, a lot of folks I grew up with ended up joining gangs. Throughout my life, it was adapting to folks and to the environment that got me to where I am today.” 

If Para Los Niños had not been involved in Kevin’s education, he doubts he would have pursued a degree and wound up in the position he now loves. Instead, he would have enlisted, taken the military route, and left his community for good. It was the encouragement of the Youth Workforce Services team that gave him the confidence to take his education to the next level. 

“I think being a part of PLN and YWS guided me to realize that there’s outside forces that care. And I think that shaped me to think hey, maybe we shouldn’t be stuck in this perpetual cycle of folks staying in the community and getting out, but instead come back to give people opportunities and better our community. It doesn’t matter if I grow and become a better person if the people around me don’t. I’m a true believer in being a team player and camaraderie where we all have to work together to get to our goals. One person succeeding doesn’t really change the world. If we as a group– as a whole– get better, we can someday change the world.” 

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