Activating Rising Latinx Leaders Into The Changemakers We Need Right Now
By: Amanda Fernandez and Dr. Daniel Velasco
Diversity across the education sector matters. We know this. A myriad of research backs the assertion having representative leadership in and around the classroom helps improve academic achievement for all children – especially Black and Brown – across reading, math, and post-secondary persistence. To be effective Latinx education leaders, we must confront our own stories – many of which are often connected to our educational experiences, such as being a first-generation college graduate or having struggled to access quality educational opportunity in K-12. These lived experiences can be painful to reflect on, but shape who we are and why we are called to educating young people.
At Latinos for Education, our work centers around identifying, placing and connecting essential Latinx leadership in the education sector. We believe Latinx leaders should be at the forefront of creating an equitable education for our students and we are preparing our comunidad to break down barriers to opportunity for the next generation of Latinx students through leadership, advocacy and innovation programs.
What we’ve found is Latinx leaders rarely get to invest time in unpacking the thread of our experiences and how it shaped who we are and who we want to become. Yet, our experiences are foundational to fueling our “ganas” to inspire a new generation of students and families to access educational opportunity.
This is why we created leadership development programs such as the Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship – to activate the changemakers we need right now.
This 9-month competency-based program is designed to increase self-efficacy around critical leadership competencies. We use Marshall Ganz’s Public Narrative framework as a core component of the experience and to ground our Fellows in their authentic leadership.
What is Public Narrative?
Marshall Ganz, of Harvard University, created the Public Narrative Framework to better understand how social change happens and empowers people to lead that change. The framework is a tool used to effectively mobilize communities, as demonstrated in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The framework brings together three types of stories into a single narrative: Story of Self, Story of Us, and Story of Now.
- Story of Self: What calls you to this work? The Story of Self captures the essence of you: your story distilled to a few bullets you feel bring you to this moment in time. This personal journey recounts vivid anecdotes that set the stage for your beliefs and what led you to those. Our Fellows explore their personal leadership identity and work through deep reflection of how their identity shapes their journey. This can be challenging and emotionally tolling work, as in many cases this leads to uncovering and understanding some of the deeply entrenched social barriers faced by Latinx communities in America.
- Story of Us: What values define your community? Now that you’ve framed who you are, this story tells of your place within a collective identity. For many in the education ecosystem, this centers around the school community or the peripheral organizations that support the system. Our Fellows reflect on their collective identity as a cohort and engage in 12-week pro-bono consultancy projects with local education institutions. This aids their rootedness within the collective, both as a group of rising Latinx leaders in the education system and as cohort-mates experiencing the power of a structured fellowship environment.
- Story of Now: What is happening beyond our community that calls us to action? This final piece of the framework establishes a sense of urgency. If our education ecosystem should be supporting all children with opportunities to achieve prosperity beyond the classroom, then the Story of Now should point to the challenges and opportunities students face and, then, how each of us and our community are equipped to accomplish this. Our Fellows establish collective commitments at the culmination of their program pertaining to how they want their cohort to leverage their influence and leadership beyond the fellowship.
Because public narratives can take many forms, we provide our Fellows with oral, written and multi-media methods to communicate their own. For instance, blogging about the discrepancies in college access, testifying in front of legislators, and participating in town-halls with local education officials. These opportunities allow Fellows to explore how their public narrative can catalyze the change they hope to see in the education sector.
Now in its third cohort in Boston and having recently launched the inaugural Houston cohort, the Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship is contributing to increasing the self-efficacy of these fast-rising leaders across the education sector. Within a year, over 75% of 2017 Fellows expanded their sphere of influence: from the classroom to the board room. They have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at some of America’s top institutions, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins, received promotions into local and national executive teams, and have joined local education nonprofit governing boards.
Within a year, over 75% of 2017 Fellows expanded their sphere of influence: from the classroom to the board room.
The 2018 Fellows are also pursuing more leadership opportunities after recently finishing their fellowship experience. Many of them are already shifting into principalships, launching and growing entrepreneurial projects in education, running for public office, and pursuing graduate opportunities. Out of sixty self-efficacy metrics across leadership & communications, network-building, influence & motivation, leadership tools, and public narrative, 97% of them saw positive movement between pre and post fellowship assessments. Furthermore, 52% of metrics demonstrated both positive and statistically significant impact.
The 2018 Fellows are also pursuing more leadership opportunities after recently finishing their fellowship experience. Many of them are already shifting into principalships, launching and growing entrepreneurial projects in education, running for public office, and pursuing graduate opportunities.
Our Fellows are also taking their learning back to their professional settings. “Since taking my current role, I had not spent time reflecting on my work or articulating my personal narrative in a coherent way,” says Loris Toribio, 2018 Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellow in Boston. “I appreciated the space to think about my personal identity and after the experience I helped a student write her graduation speech and we incorporated elements of the Story of Now. It was very powerful!”
Diversity across the education sector matters. We know this and are committed to working alongside our Latinx leadership nationwide to flex their advocacy muscles on behalf of our children. In our key geographies of Massachusetts and Texas through our place-based fellowships, the Aspiring Latino Leaders and the Latino Board Fellowship, and across the country through our national innovation and entrepreneurship pitch competition, sponsorships to national education conferences, and strategic partnerships.
About The Authors
Amanda Fernandez is the CEO and co-founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino education leaders and diversifying education nonprofit boards. She is a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Roxbury Community College. El Planeta has twice named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts and she is a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda has over 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning, and Latino community relations.
Dr. Daniel Velasco is Chief Growth and Impact Officer at Latinos for Education, where he leads program design, implementation and evaluation along with strategy, growth and innovation efforts. He holds master’s degrees from Harvard University and Clark University and earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from Johns Hopkins University with an emphasis on Human Capital Development. He sits on the governing board of the National Center on Teacher Residencies and was honored in 2016 by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his national service.