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Updated: October 21, 2019

Volunteerism brings Valdez-Jimenez sense of ‘fulfillment’

Photos | Contributed Luis Valdez-Jimenez addressing attendees of the 2019 "Boogie for Books" fundraiser, which raised about $25,000 this summer to support children.
Luis Valdez-Jimenez volunteering with United Way Emerging Leaders Society at a “Beyond the Bell” event.


Luis Valdez-Jimenez, Contracts Manager, Pratt & Whitney 

When Luis Valdez-Jimenez moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut in 2015 to take a job with Collins Aerospace — then called UTC Aerospace Systems — he didn’t know a soul in the state.

Valdez-Jimenez, who has an MBA and law degree, loved his job working in supply-chain contracts and compliance. But something was missing.

“One of the ways I decided to get to know people was through volunteering,” Valdez-Jimenez said. “It was a way to get to know the area better.

“Volunteering is not just a way to benefit the community, it’s a way for the community to benefit you. It brings happiness. A sense of well-being. I’m doing my part. It brings a sense of fulfillment.”

When he first moved to Connecticut, someone told him about the United Way and its Emerging Leaders Society (ELS).

“I first started off as a volunteer in 2015 and eventually I joined the ELS steering committee, and for the 2018-2019 year I became its chair,” he said.

ELS is an official affinity group of the United Way that connects leaders, cultivates relationships, and mobilizes young professionals to give back.

Due to his position as ELS chair, Valdez-Jimenez received a seat on United Way’s board of directors.

Rebekah Castagno, ELS manager of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, said Valdez-Jimenez has leveraged his different networks to encourage others to volunteer.

“He definitely leads by example,” Castagno said. “He’s someone who is extremely passionate. His energy is contagious. He gets people pumped up.”

In Jan. 2019, Valdez-Jimenez became a contracts manager at East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney.

“It’s definitely a busy job,” he said. “I love my job. I love the company I work for.”

Besides volunteering with the United Way, Valdez-Jimenez said he gives back to the Hispanic community, serving as executive vice president of the Connecticut Chapter of Prospanica and is a member of the board of directors of 360 Federal Credit Union.

Volunteering has also helped Valdez-Jimenez hone his public-speaking skills. He’s often asked to speak before large crowds on behalf of volunteer organizations.

He’s come a long way when it comes to speaking in public.

As a youth, Valdez-Jimenez had a severe speech impediment and went through speech therapy.

“I was deeply embarrassed,” he said. “I definitely was a shy introverted person.”

His speech impediment was so bad he could barely speak English, he said.

One speech therapist told him he would not be able to hold a job beyond the difficulty of a grocery-store bagger.

“I persevered because I had to,” he said. “I realized that my life would be very limited, and I would not be able to achieve any of my dreams if I did not become a better speaker. Learning to speak was liberating and empowering for me.”

He slowly gained confidence and competence in speaking by taking classes and signing up to speak.

“Now I like speaking in public,” he said.

Even doing so before a crowd of 1,000 isn’t intimidating any longer, he said.

Because Valdez-Jimenez has gotten so much out of volunteering, he thinks everyone should find an organization they love and volunteer for it.

“I hope to inspire everyone to take advantage of it,” Valdez-Jimenez said. “It has brought me an enormous amount of satisfaction.”

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