Diversity in Action: Program Increases Latino Representation on Boston Education Boards

By: Amanda Fernandez and Carrie Irvin

Board Fellows 2017 Anniversary Photo

In early 2017, Latinos for Education piloted a program to increase representation of Latino leaders on education nonprofit boards in Boston. We partnered with Charter Board Partners to provide governance training to ensure fellows would be prepared to serve on high profile boards. A year and a half later, 19 Latino leaders from the first two cohorts of the Latino Board Fellows Program have been selected, trained, and matched to the boards of directors of education nonprofits and charter schools. These board members are using their voice, networks, experience, and influence to serve as advocates for Boston’s Latino community, and to strengthen the organizations they now help lead.

Latinos for Education and Charter Board Partners are partnering around our shared belief that education nonprofit organizations must have diverse and inclusive boards to achieve their missions and effectively serve students and families of color. We designed the program to select and prepare Latino leaders from across various sectors to join the boards of education nonprofit organizations. Charter Board Partners helped design and deliver a six-month program to train participants in effective board governance. Our two organizations are proud to work together to achieve our aligned missions and apply our collective expertise to dramatically increase diversity and inclusion on education boards.

Fellows, carefully selected for their leadership experience and potential, as well as professional experience and personal background and perspective, have the opportunity to hone their skills and learn how to channel their expertise and commitment to become highly effective nonprofit board members. They are matched with education organizations that generally, and in some cases disproportionately, serve Latino children and families. In Boston, where 42 percent of the city’s public school students are Latino, this includes just about every education organization across the preK-16 continuum. By choosing to participate in this innovative program, these organizations are blazing the trail in demonstrating a desire and commitment to increasing the representation of Latinos on their governing boards. Their participation is a clear signal that these community-based nonprofits are willing to engage in the complex work of “walking the talk” when it comes to equity for children and families.

Throughout the program, we worked with partner organizations to help them reflect on their governing boards’ diversity, equity, and inclusivity practices. We helped them understand what strong governance looks like, the importance of not “tokenizing” board members of color, and how to onboard and fully include new board members. We also gained a sense of the goals, challenges, and gaps on each board. At the conclusion of the training series, we matched each Fellow to a board that needs her/his experiences and skills to accomplish its mission and to increase diversity and representation on the board.

“We felt a smart match was made,” says Amanda Seider, a long-time member of the KIPP Massachusetts board of directors. “The degree to which our board member hit the ground running was incredible. The opportunity to bring someone on who was not on our radar was invaluable.” 

Our Fellows continue to share with us how the fellowship prepared and inspired them. “Not only am I able to have my voice heard, but I am also encouraging others to do the same,” says Natalie Velasquez, 2017 Latino Board Fellow. “There are far too many students and families for us to get complacent.”

Fellows from the inaugural cohort now serve on the boards of the following organizations.

  • Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Senior Program Officer at Nellie Mae Foundation, board member at Jumpstart
  • Clara Arroyave, Co-Founder at PlaceMe, board member at Breakthrough Greater Boston
  • Jennifer Betancourt, Director of Educational Policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, board member at KIPP Massachusetts
  • Hazie Crespo, Associate Science Teacher at Excel Academy Charter School,  board member at Excel Academy Charter School
  • Luis Miguel Echeverri, Director of Insurance Management at Enel Green Power, board member at uAspire
  • Melissa Lemire, Senior Consultant at Liberty Mutual Insurance, board member at City on a Hill
  • Francisco Marriott; Chief Financial Officer at PlaceMe, board member at Uncommon – Roxbury Prep
  • Maritere Mix, Latin Teacher at Nashoba Brooks School, board member at Citizen Schools
  • Natalie Velasquez, Business Analyst at State Street Corporation, board member at Boston Collegiate

About Latinos for Education

Latinos for Education is the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating pathways for Latinos in education. We are mobilizing a network of skilled Latino education leaders to ensure the voices of Latino students and families is not only heard, but also factored into decision-making in schools, communities and education institutions in the US.

About Charter Board Partners

Charter Board Partners is a national nonprofit that recruits charter school board members, supports charter school boards, and offers thought leadership to the sector to ensure that the nonprofit boards governing and supporting public charter schools are actively and successfully working to make the schools they govern better and more equitable.