Louis Cardenas, The AM Project

An arrogant business man-turned-child hero.


By Zenobia Wiley, Copy Editor

The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations, losing an average of between four and seven children every day to abuse and neglect.

3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. While these millions of children can’t be immediately saved from their predicament, people are working hard to make their lives more comfortable.

People like Louis Cardenas.

Cardenas is a San Antonio native, and founder of the AM Project, which, in his words, is meant to “help kids look at the world in a different way”. This non-profit digital arts and music program supports non-profit programs, high schools, public libraries and more, giving K–12th graders a chance to explore their creative side.

“So [the students] are taking this course right. They come up with their track, and we’ll bring [them] up. These kids, after they’ve worked hard and finished something, they’re able to perform. Dancers come up and perform, and you know, they’re in charge. They’re the DJs, they’re running the show.”

Cardenas, who found himself as a kid having issues with school, encourages the pursuit of expression consistently and passionately. He likes the fact that through the AM Project, kids can experience the creative side of what they can do, instead of letting their frustrations steer them off course.

3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children…

Evincing his rather sentimental feelings towards the disregarded, he states, “There’s a lot of kids out there that aren’t focused. They just don’t like school, but they’re creative. Sometimes creative people are overlooked because “eh, you don’t have the best grades”. What I love about the AM project is I see the impact on kids.”

This hero of the neglected hasn’t always been focused on the cause, though. At one point, Cardenas kept it strictly business.

He describes his early work, Blonde Creative, which works with advertising: “I started working with non-profits. I didn’t really care about the cause, but I wanted to connect with people on the board. They wouldn’t take my call, but if I’m supporting your board, you’re gonna pick up the phone. I don’t think years ago I would’ve been prepared for the AM project. I wasn’t focused enough or mature enough to have my own company.”

And then, about three years ago, something changed; out of pure curiosity, Cardenas began taking DJ classes. Not only did he enjoy the music, but he enjoyed talking to these professionals, and wanted to bring that professionalism to youth who otherwise might never experience it.

Ever the fantast, he used his skills from Blonde Creative in order to begin this life-changing journey. “I paid attention, and I had to learn about budgets, how to create budgets. I had to learn how to raise money to put on events. I took that, what I did with other organizations and boards, to prepare myself for the AM project,” he says.

It seems this worked out for him, as the project is now changing many lives. Of course, though, there’s always a sliver of doubt, as any entrepreneur might have.

“I doubt myself all the time, I think anybody would. But that helps me to come back down to Earth. But I’m a risk-taker, I really am, I don’t– I just do what’s in my gut. Like I can’t make it over there, but maybe I can make it over here.”

While the AM Project does focus mainly on music, Cardenas is sure to incorporate academics into his courses.

“Absolutely [we encourage] pursuit of academics. We tell them, it’s not easy, you have to focus. I want everybody to go to college, but honestly, some people just won’t. And that’s okay, but if they can find something else, we wanna give them the tools to be whatever they wanna be,” he says.

While this life-changing program is quite beneficial for the children participating, parents can be deeply affected as well. This program brings families closer, and sometimes begets intimate moments that might not of come to be if not for Cardenas.

“Our first presentation with high school kids, there’s a young lady. Talked about her dad, about the struggles they had, and how her stepdad is really her hero– how he’s taking care of the family. And her mom never heard that story. But music, and this class, brought it out of her.”

The question is, what happens to these kids once they’re out of the program? Well, Caldera has thought of this as well, constantly looking to innovate his company. Currently The AM Project is working on being able to provide these kids with the tools they need to continue the craft, and they’ll just pay what they can.

“I think I’m thinking big enough. The AM Project, we have opportunities to work with musicians, school districts. It makes me nervous, because it’ll take us to a different level. But when I’m nervous, I excel. So yeah, you have to dream big. If you stop dreaming big, I mean, what the hell are you doing?”