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Dancing with Our Community Star Competitor Rick Castaniero

 Rick Cantaniero is a Future Leaders of America Alumni (1985), an educator, writer and filmmaker. Mr. Castaniero is the former Executive Director of the Center for Racial Education at UC Berkeley. He earned a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley, an Educational Specialist degree from California Lutheran University and a Masters in Fine Arts from UCLA in Filmmaking.Mr. Castaniero is a former owner of a successful film company and brought a wealth of experience in public relations business management and fundraising to Future Leaders of America, which is who he will be dancing for. Vote4Rick.com.

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Rick is an Educator in Santa Paula Unified School District.

S805 - How excited were you to be asked as one of the competitors for Dancing with our Community Stars Dance Contest & Fundraiser? Do you have any dance experience?
Rick  At first, I started laughing because I was surprised I was being asked to enter a dancing contest. I have never been known as a “salsero.”  I thought, you have the wrong guy.  You must be mistaken…  When I realized this was a serious question.  I got nervous thinking, “You want me to dance in front of a bunch of people?”
Once the opportunity to raise money for Future Leaders of America was explained to me, I got excited.  This is a great chance to highlight a wonderful organization that does important work in the community.
S805 - What was your first impression meeting your sexy & beautiful dance partner Diana Tere? How does it feel knowing that your dance partner won 1st place in the 2013 Dancing With Our Community Stars?
Rick Diana is awesome.  She is a sexy and beautiful dancer.  She made me feel comfortable right away with her down to earth personality.
When I found out she won 1st place last year, I was not surprised.  Diana has been putting me through rigorous dance lessons.  During every practice we stretch, practice basic moves and then work on our routine.  Her discipline and regiment is impressive. I get excited about dance practice because Diana always pushes me out of my comfort zone. My biggest fear is letting her down or dropping her.
S805 - How many times a week are you able to practice with Diana?
Rick Diana and I usually practice about 2-3 times a week for a few hours.
S805 - What do your colleagues think about you competing in this dance contest?
Rick My colleagues are excited and supportive. Most are surprised when they hear I am going to be in a Salsa contest, some of my friends already want front row seats. My family said I should get a tutor to help my two left feet. A group of FLA students have already organized a chocolate sale to help raise money for the contest. This is going to be fun for all of us.

S805 - How long have you been a part of The Future Leaders of America? Can you tell us about some of the fundraising events that FLA have?

Rick  My first involvement with Future Leaders of America was from my freshman year in high school until I graduated from U.C. Berkeley. I reconnected with FLA when I moved back to Ventura County about three years ago. This organization inspired me to change my life. I went from being a high-risk youth to someone who became focused on goal setting, going to college, and participating in leadership at school. Although my mother valued education, my father had a 3rd grade education. He just wanted me to become a hard worker and financially independent as soon as possible. FLA planted a seed inside me to dream bigger and take risks. First, I had to learn to share my goals with my father so I could participate in student government and sports instead of just working. I still had to work during weekends and vacations. But with the support of FLA, I eventually became ASB President at Hueneme High School, earned a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and a M.F.A from UCLA Film School.

S805 - Any film projects that you are working on that you could us tell about?

Rick  Right now, I am writing a bio piece called Ramona Redemption about a youth who escapes the slaughterhouse of gang life. It is inspired by my recent work with youth.  

After working at Santa Paula High School during the day, I volunteer about twenty hours a week for Future Leaders of America. We are currently preparing for our summer leadership camp where we train 100 youth from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in education, self-development and leadership. This summer is going to be amazing! We just confirmed Fillmore School District Superintendent Adrian Palazuelos, a FLA alumnus, to be our keynote speaker. He was a participant in FLA as a freshman in high school and has continued to be of service throughout his professional career.

S805 - You know what would be great, a documentary on the ups & downs of a DWOCS dance competitor? What do you think?

Rick -  Yes! A documentary about an amateur facing the daunting challenge of dancing salsa in front of thousands of people would be great. It could open with the announcement of who is competing and then cut to the contestant learning the basic steps. I almost trip over my own feet sometimes. Then I go into public and hear, “Are you ready?” This inspires me to go practice.

We look forward to cheering Rick and the other contestants on Sunday July 27th at the Oxnard Salsa Festival .

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