Latino Leaders Convene for Education Summit

By: R.D. Leyva

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Increasing the diversity and inclusivity of education leadership spaces requires intentional and deliberate action. We say we want to create space for leaders of color, yet at many national education convenings we still struggle to see equitable representation of Latino leaders.

As an organization dedicated to creating pathways for Latino leadership in education, we are intentional about ensuring Latino leaders are represented and have space to bring their authentic voices. For the past two years, we partnered with the NewSchools Venture Fund to ensure Latino leaders are gaining access to meaningful professional development and building a thriving community along the way.

The NewSchools Summit is an annual gathering of education leaders who bring diverse perspectives in PreK-12 education innovation. This year’s convening brought together over 1,300 educators, entrepreneurs, community leaders, funders and policy makers to share ideas about reimagining learning and preparing all students to achieve their most ambitious dreams.

Four years ago, I attended Summit for the first time and as is the case for many of these convenings, I struggled to find my tribe. At many education conferences, Latinos are under-represented as plenary speakers and as attendees. Moreover, because our Latino community includes a wide range of racial diversity, it is not always easy for us to intentionally connect with one another.

In the spirit of creating more visibility and fostering community amongst Latino education leaders, Latinos for Education hosted a breakfast at the NewSchools Summit for two consecutive years. Our goal is to ensure Latinos have a space to identify one another and create stronger relationships to foster future collaboration within the education sector.

This year, over eighty Latino leaders joined us for the Latino Community Breakfast, where they shared their stories and insights about how our Latino community should move forward to ensure students receive an equitable education.

Latino leaders were thrilled to connect with one another in this shared affinity space and are finding ways to stay engaged.

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In addition to working with the NewSchools team on creating a Latino Community Breakfast, we partnered to ensure more Latino leaders had access to attend the Summit. We identified members from our network to apply for scholarships to attend Summit. This year, 24 members of our network were granted conference scholarships to offset costs for registration and travel. This financial support was critical for many Latino leaders who attended Summit for the first time.

Following the event, our members shared reflections about their learnings at the conference. Andy Canales, Director for Social Measurement and Evaluation at Children at Risk, shared his commitment to re-examining education based on a session about the future workforce.

“The conference pushed me to think about elevating our conversation around education to another level because 40% of jobs are projected to disappear in the next 20-30 years due to automation and robotics,” says Canales. “I’ve been reflecting on this point and what it means for my work in data, advocacy and policy.”

Elysa Severinghaus, an alumna of the Latinos for Education Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship and Senior Program Manager at Empower Schools, highlighted how a session on teacher diversity pushed her to reflect on how she continues to advocate for under-represented communities.

“While the researchers were aware their data focused on Black students, given the availability of longitudinal data on teacher demographics and student achievement, this acknowledgement was left out of the introduction. As a Latina working in education, it reminded me that I need to always keep in mind the voices that are not being represented and work to lift them as well,” says Severinghaus.

Through partnerships with organizations like NewSchools, we continue to identify and support members of our network to gain access to premier professional development opportunities. These types of collaborations help ensure under-represented voices are at the table and that organizations are willing to financially support the development of leaders of color.

Opportunities such as these conference sponsorships are available to members of our network who create a free profile on our online Talent Hub. We encourage all Latino leaders working across the education sector – as teachers, administrators, organizers, philanthropists, nonprofit leaders or advocates – to join our network and connect with other Latino leaders across the country.

Latinos for Education members who received scholarships: Jennifer Betancourt, Andy Canales, Dr. Karla Estrada, Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, Marvin Gutierrez, Dr. Pamela Hernandez, Ricky Hurtado, Karen Maldonado, Maritere Mix, Giovany Morales Ramos, Johana Muriel Grajales, Derek Nino, Sineria Ordonez, Josuel Plasencia, Oscar Romano, Elysa Severinghaus, Elena Sicairos, Elaine Townsend Utin, Nicole Veltze, Andrea Wolfe, and Omar Yanar

R.D. serves as the Program Director at L4E. He leads the talent work to connect L4E members to high-impact roles, professional development opportunities and other Latino leaders across the country. He lives in Washington, DC.