Naila’s Story: Partner Reflects on the Value of Collaboration and How Building Latino Leadership Helps Children Unleash Their Full Potential

By: R.D. Leyva

While Latinos continue to be under-represented in leadership roles in education, we also know the largest gaps are in senior-level positions and on boards of directors. To address this gap, we launched the Latino Board Fellowship in 2017; a program that recruits, develops and matches skilled Latino leaders to the boards of directors of education nonprofits and charter schools.

Over the past two years, we trained over 20 Fellows and partnered with organizations committed to ensuring Latino perspectives are guiding their direction. We collaborate with institutions aligned to our values who create opportunities for Latino leaders’ voices to influence decision-making.

Jumpstart, a national early childhood organization that helps children entering Kindergarten prepare to succeed, is one such partner. Naila Bolus, Jumpstart’s CEO, recently shared about the value of Latino leaders at the board level and why we must bridge across cultures to remove barriers to Latino educational success. In the second part of our Hispanic Heritage Month video series, we feature Naila’s story.

Please watch and share this video!

Read Naila’s full interview to learn more.

Featured Latino Voice
Naila Bolus
CEO, Jumpstart

What inspired you to become a leader in the education sector?

My parents were committed to education as a core value. My mother never went to college and my father worked his way through college. But together they worked hard to ensure that my brother and I could pursue education as the great equalizer.

Over the course of my career, education has always been that beacon, that possibility that we can truly achieve opportunity and equity in our country.

When children enter kindergarten with high-quality early education, they are set up for success for the rest of their academic career.

What is your connection to Latinos for Education?

Jumpstart was one of the first organizations to participate in the Latino Board Fellowship. We also had a team of Fellows from the Aspiring Leaders Program who helped us develop a series of trainings for our college student volunteers and our Latino families.

What do you think about Latino representation in the education sector?

There is a growing number of Latino families who are accessing early childhood education but teachers and leaders are lagging far behind.

Similarly, the nonprofit sector is increasingly serving Latino communities, yet leadership in nonprofit organizations and particularly on Boards of Directors is woefully underrepresented.

How do you think the underrepresentation of Latinos in leadership roles impacts Latino families and children?

One of Jumpstart’s core beliefs is in the potential of every child. We think about the importance of language and literacy in children’s lives. Children need to be able to see themselves reflected in the literature that they read and in the leadership and teachers that surround them, like mirrors. In addition, they need windows opening their wider perspective to the world to introduce them to new meanings, concepts, and exploration.

How would greater Latino representation in leadership impact children?

Tremendously! It is so important that our organizations have deep respect and understanding of the communities we serve. The more we can bring Latino perspective, and experience and expertise into our organizations the better we are able to serve children and the better we are able to close the opportunity gap. It is about young children accessing high quality resources and education. Not having adequate Latino representation is a total disservice to young children.

What is the biggest value add to the education system for organizations like Jumpstart and Latinos for Education?

We are hyper focused on early childhood as a key to breaking the cycle of poverty. We have a unique way of supporting children to realize their full potential. In addition, we prepare future teachers and advocate for high-quality early childhood for all.

Latinos for Education’s value add is threefold. First it is hyper focused on a critical need. Second, it is a consistent voice. Third, it lifts up Latinos into positions of leadership and advocacy.

What has helped you become an effective leader and advocate?

We tend to think of leadership as isolated roles. And it can be at times. We need to get outside of our comfort zones to build deep, authentic relationships and partnerships across difference. It is what will ultimately change the system!

This is the second part of a four-part video series during Hispanic Heritage Month about the value of Latino perspectives in education. We encourage you to view the first video in the series, Sabrina’s Story, about a Latina student in Lawrence, MA.