In 1996, seventeen year-old Luis Velez co-founded Generation X-cel, an agency that provides quality programming and support to the thousands of young people on the Lower East side. Working mainly with the 19,000 residents of the nearby Lillian Wald, Jacob Riis, and Baruch Housing Projects, Velez and the organization provide exciting and enriching alternatives to the streets where delinquency, drug abuse, and incidents of violence are among the worst in New York. Described by members of his organization as a "pioneer" for the youth of his neighborhood, Velez's strong commitment to the organization is evident both in the exceptional quality of his programmatic creations and in the effort he devotes to every aspect of the organization.
Facing widespread nutrition problems and a dearth of athletic options in the area, Velez has coordinated a variety of health, nutrition, and sports programs since the program's inception. Moreover, Velez has taken athletic activities to another level in the area by providing constant, organized programs, such as "Group Club," a friendly competition offering wiffleball, dodgeball, basketball, soccer, and hockey, which emphasizes the importance of teamwork and dedication. In addition, Velez created and designed Boot Camp Week, a program that instills six core values, excellence, creativity, initiative, resourcefulness, resiliency, and unity. Velez further diversified the athletic options available to the program's young people by arranging on-site martial arts classes with the founder of the Deadly Art of Survival Karate style, for which Velez also volunteers as an instructor twice a week.
Funding and space issues have been difficult over the years and Velez has worked successfully with limited options. For example, he and his co-founders completely renovated a donated facility to house the program. "It was in total ruin," said Velez. "We basically made it our home." He currently volunteers as the facility's only maintenance worker, which he cleans three times a week. Moreover, Velez worked full-time as a volunteer for three years, supplementing his income with the "graveyard" shift at a local delicatessen. In addition, he serves as a positive role model for the young people, for many of whom he is the only positive male figure present in their lives.
As for his unwavering commitment to the organization, Velez expressed his desire to see the vision of the twelve founders fulfilled. "I've always had an inner tenacity," he said. "I realized that I founded something and created something…that we want to last."