Giving the Next Generation a Helping Hand
“I have been on a lot of panel discussions lately, and every time I do one, I learn more about myself,” says Chantel Diaz, coordinator of global diversity and inclusion at AEG, a sports, music, and live entertainment company that manages festivals like Coachella.
But before she was guiding diversity initiatives for Instagram-ready companies and giving the next generation a helping hand, Diaz had to teach herself how to negotiate her education and career path. “No one else in my family went to college or got their master’s degree,” says Diaz, who grew up in Los Angeles. Her mother, however, had different ideas for her daughter. Even though she was a single parent of four, she refused to let Diaz work in high school and instead told her to concentrate on her studies and sports.
Diaz set her sights on college, but her journey was nearly derailed by a clerical error. “I had a 3.8 GPA, and I was an All-Star athlete, but my high school counselor didn’t check the fee waiver on my college applications.”
Diaz spent her first year out of high school living and working on her own. When she went to Santa Monica College the following year, her two “awesome” basketball coaches, Lydia Strong and Danny O’Fallon, made sure not to make the same mistake as her guidance counselor. “Coach Strong sent a video of me playing to other universities,” Diaz says. When the coaches of the NYIT women’s basketball team saw it, they were impressed.
With the help of a scholarship, Diaz enrolled in NYIT and moved across the country. After earning her B.F.A. in Communications and TV Production, she got her master’s in Media Management. To pay for school and get a head start on her career, she held down four jobs and somehow found time to intern for NBC and for News 12 Long Island. “I had a lot of experience before getting out in the real world,” she says.
Diaz returned to the West Coast after graduation. She worked in corporate partnerships for the Oakland Raiders and community relations for the Los Angeles Clippers—at the same time. “I saw the look on the kids’ faces, and with my background, I wanted to give back,” she says.
At a Clippers game, Diaz met a senior vice president of human resources at AEG. “She offered me a temp position in her department,” she says. It quickly turned into a full-time position, and later, Diaz discovered the Diversity and Inclusion Department. The team was a perfect fit. Now, she runs several outreach programs for underprivileged youth.
“Just seeing the kids grow and retain the information is amazing,” she says. The students get to meet with professionals from local organizations and teams like the Dodgers and Lakers. “The first year, we held a graduation, and we all started crying. I can’t wait to see where these kids end up.”