The basics: Eric Payne, 28, is a Fresno native who recently was elected District 3 trustee for the State Center Community College District. After growing up in a single-parent home and graduating from Washington Union High School, Payne got bachelor's degrees in biology and chemistry and a master's in microbiology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
What he does: Payne is the southwest Fresno site director for the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, a federal initiative that started in August through the city of Fresno. Payne represents southwest Fresno on the city's General Plan Update Advisory committee. He also volunteers in his southwest Fresno neighborhood, mentoring three high school students.
Why he does it: "Coming back and seeing those disparities that were in my community when I was younger still exist today; that was the realization I had to want to elevate the platform of post-secondary education in my community," he said. "To let young people know that they have options."
The turning point: In 2010, Payne was mentoring high school students in Normal, Ala., when he had a revelation to bring his work back to Fresno. "I was working with those students, and I felt like I could be doing so much more to give back to my own community."
Details, details: One of his goals for southwest Fresno is to get city resources targeted on the area. He is involved with his church and organizes grass-roots efforts to better the area, working with Fresno Street Saints and the West Fresno Family Resource Center.
What others say: "He is a true community leader," said Yolanda Randles, executive director of the West Fresno Family Resource Center. "He has great love and passion for the west Fresno community and it's real. It's not for a position or for show. He truly wants to make a difference in the community so Fresno isn't a tale of two cities."
How you can help: To volunteer in the west Fresno area call Fresno Street Saints at (559) 478-5700 or the West Fresno Family Resource Center at (559) 264-7185.
-- Angel Moreno