Santo Alvarez: Leadership In Action

Oct 2, 2023

Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

Santo Alvarez steps into the hallways of CEC Early College at 6:45 a.m. where his daily, 12-hour sprint begins. Through careful planning, agile decision-making, and community connection, Santo forwards his personal mission to create opportunities and build success across generations.

Many people don’t realize or get to see the full scope of what a committed leader like Santo does.

We followed Santo through the spaces he shows up in daily and gathered insight into why and how he chooses to lead in each place: in the classroom, working with teachers, and bringing generations together in his non-profit, Clutch Performance.

This is leadership by choice. Not by chance.


6:45 am – 12:30 pm – High School Educator 


Each morning, Santo teaches career exploration, entrepreneurship, marketing, and personal finance to 9th through 12th graders.

Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

“I want you as a student to know your identity. I think that’s really important: knowing and being proud of who you are. Being proud of being brown or black. Being proud of speaking another language, being proud of your family coming from another country, being a second-generation immigrant, being straight, gay, bi – whatever it is how you identify.

Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

I want my students to find their passion. My entrepreneurship class is about helping them to find what intrinsically motivates them or lights their fire. That’s honestly how I start all of my classes – I start with a conversation around identity.”


12:30 pm – 4:00 pm – Teacher Mentor


“As a teacher coach, I practice what I preach. I’m in the trenches with teachers because I still teach, so I understand what they’re going through.” Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

“As a teacher coach, I practice what I preach. I’m in the trenches with teachers because I still teach, so I understand what they’re going through.” Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

“In the second half of my day, I’m working with other leaders and coaching teachers on how to relate to students and making sure that their classrooms are relevant so that students want to be in their classrooms.

Photo: Alan Dominguez / 2023

When I’m asked why I’ve committed my career to education, I answer: So that I can disrupt systems and be an example for students. The modern education system’s origins can be traced back to the early colonial period. And that’s still the same model that we go by today, which just blows my mind. I see my role as a leader that can help coach teachers make their classrooms more student-first rather than the old-school, traditional teacher lecture.”


6:00 pm – 7:15 pm – Nonprofit Founder


“I think my mission clicked two years ago. I started my nonprofit, Clutch Performance, because my son was an athlete and I coached all of his sports and all of his friends. We’re all from the inner city and all of his friends are my homies’ kids.

“I want my students to see me being a leader so that they can expect that from themselves.” Photo: Alvaro Saucedo / 2023

I just wanted to make sure they were all together and have that direct positive influence. I helped them through high school and now all three of them have athletic scholarships.

“Clutch Fitness brings together my classwork and the coaching. Plus it allows me to directly help my community. That’s the biggest thing for me.” Photo: Alvaro Saucedo / 2023

Clutch Performance is all community-based and that’s the biggest thing for me. In addition to the coaching we do for elementary and middle schoolers, I work with young athletes in their early 20s to help give them the leadership experience of working in a non-profit.

Photo: Alvaro Saucedo / 2023

We make sure that we’re instilling the soft skills that will make them successful in real life: leadership, teamwork, communication, and nonverbal communication. Accountability. Learning how to deal with loss. How to use control and how to be passionate.”


At the End of the Day


Through each part of the day, Santo dedicates his time to leading by example, sometimes disrupting the traditional education system, so that others can authentically contribute their skills and talents. The source of his motivation can be traced back to a simple yet powerful idea:

“What drives me is I know that kids, students from my community, the youth from our community, are directly impacted and influenced by what I’m doing in the classroom or what I’m doing outside of the classroom with them.

Photo: Alvaro Saucedo / 2023

My goal is to make sure they are successful in whatever they choose to do.


Santo Alvarez on the LLI:

“The Latino Leadership Institute really is a familia. I talk to my cohort all the time. You can count on them for support, and help. The reason my non-profit is going after COVID is because of donations from my cohort and other cohorts. They give me confidence. And when I go through hardships, I know I have the support of people like are part of the LLI.”

About Santo Alvarez:
Santo Alvarez is a proud Colorado native from West Denver who has been running the business program at CEC for over 10 years. He is a graduate of the Latino Leadership Institute (LLI). Read more here.

About Alan Dominguez, photographer:
Alan Dominguez, fellow LLI graduate and CEC Early College educator, stepped in to support the visual storytelling of this project and bring Santo’s story to a larger audience. A gifted leader in his own right, learn more about his work here.