Zoot Velasco's life was defined by one event. Zoot was severely burned as an infant, losing the use of the muscles in his right foot. He grew up in a hospital, inner-city neighborhoods, and a bomb shelter. Yet, he went on to a 12-year career as a professional dancer and actor. He has held some very odd jobs as a live wax figure, a mannequin model, a high fashion model and choreographer, a break dancer on MTV for Prince and Michael Jackson, a mime and crash test dummy in films and commercials, a swing dancer with Lionel Hampton and the Count Basie Orchestra, a performance artist in international shows, and as an arts program manager in prisons and juvenile halls. His prison arts program produced work now in museum collections at the Getty, Hammer, and Library of Congress. He built four new art centers in the harbor area for the City of Los Angeles and helped build a Boys & Girls Club in Harbor City and a theatre in Long Beach. As interim leader for six organizations, Zoot helped each more than double capacity in 18 months. From 2007–2016, he led the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton and more than quadrupled the number of patrons, programs, members, and budget, all during a bad economy.
He holds a BA in dance from St. Mary’s College, an MBA in nonprofit management from Hope International University, and professional designations in arts education, fundraising, management, and conflict resolution. A Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE 2011), Zoot has raised more than $28 million dollars for various community benefit organizations.
Zoot teaches courses in Nonprofit Management at CharityHowTo.com, Cal State Long Beach, Cal Poly Pomona, and Gianneschi Summer School for Nonprofits at Cal State Fullerton (all based on his book for new community leaders, The First 100 Days: Leading Small Non-Profits Out of the Wildnerness). He hosts retreats for new community leaders, conducts workshops, speaks at conferences, and emcees fundraisers and auctions for charity events. He is also a consultant on organizational capacity building, fund development, STEAM education and institutional arts programs. He works as a teaching artist in prisons, schools, and community spaces. He has authored screenplays, plays, poems, podcasts and two books.
His hobbies are cooking and eating great food, dancing, and international cultural tourism.
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- MBA in Nonprofit Management from Hope International University
- CFRE, Certified Fundraiser, Assoc. of Fundraising Professional
- Coro Fellow, CAC Multicultural Arts Leadership Program
- Graduate, Executive Service Corps CEO Training
- Graduate, City of Long Beach Leadership Program
- Arts For All, Curriculum Development Certification
- Screen Actors Guild, Member
- The Olin Group Executive Coach
- Instructor: Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, CSUF Gianneschi Center for Nonprofit Research, CharityHowTo.Com
- TEDx Licensee, TEDx Bakersfield