Taking A Seat At The Table
By: Maritere Mix
On a chilly morning in March, I sat at a table of fellow Latinos from different backgrounds and different professional sectors, ranging from finance to education to psychology. Despite our differing career paths, we were all there for the same reason: to learn how we as individuals and professionals could represent the Latino voice in a space that typically does not boast Latino representation – the nonprofit board room.
The Latino Board Fellows Program is a six-month fellowship that prepares Latino leaders within and outside of education to be successful board members for charter schools and education nonprofits in Greater Boston. I can only speak for myself, but I believe we applied to this program keenly aware of several facts. We knew many of Boston’s educational nonprofit organizations offer services to communities with a significant percentage of Latinos. We also knew the boards of these organizations do not represent the demographics of the communities they serve.
Because of this awareness, we expected L4E’s Latino Board Fellowship could help us change that second fact. That first day established the foundation for the months of seminars ahead, by diving deep into our identities as Latinos and as leaders in our field. It was a great experience to hear each other’s stories of struggles and success, to learn about our similarities as Latinos while also teasing out the subtleties that make each Latino experience unique. I learned that, like myself, others experienced the embarrassment and frustration around having our names mispronounced. As a Puerto Rican who grew up in Chelsea, I might bring a different, very personal, perspective to the conversations that will take place in the board room and offer much-needed insight about how decisions affect the community. Each session thereafter armed us with fundamental knowledge about the logistical, operational, and strategic nuts and bolts of a typical nonprofit board. Now, some candor is in order: learning this information might seem dry. But, having sat at my first board meeting just a few weeks ago, I know this knowledge grounded me in the work and gave me a sense of direction in our conversations.
It was a great experience to hear each other’s stories of struggles and success, to learn about our similarities as Latinos while also teasing out the subtleties that make each Latino experience unique.
Now, I can officially say that, after six months of seminars and webinars, I feel ready! I am equipped to sit at the table – that enigmatic table (enigmatic to Latinos if not to anyone else) where decisions are made that impact the lives of Latinos and other underrepresented groups. I am also ready to use my voice and my story. The Latino Board Fellowship program afforded me a marvelous opportunity, but more importantly prepared me to navigate this relatively unknown space with confidence.
Applications for the 2018 Latino Board Fellows Program are open through Sunday, October 29th. If you identify as a Latino leader and you live in the Greater Boston area, we encourage you to learn more and apply.