Changing Our World Begins With Changing Ourselves: 2022 Latino Board Fellowship Alum Reflects on Her Transformation
By Gabriela Taveras, 2022 Latino Board Fellowship Alum
Growing up, I always felt misunderstood, underrepresented, and over stereotyped at school which led to identity threat concerns. These experiences led me to the realization that one of the most important decisions one can make for their child is who teaches them. Oftentimes, Latinx parents find themselves at the will of the school district and lacking proper information and questions.
In my line of work as a Business and DEI consultant, I acknowledge that the boards of many nonprofits and schools promote good intentions but fall short of execution as they don’t often represent the diversity of the communities they serve. I have always hesitated to enroll my children in a system that values bottom-lines more than learning potential. We all have a role to play in ensuring that boards are more representative of not just the demographics of the Latinx community, but of our values as well. This can range from deciding to serve on a board, to simply learning more about how a board is structured, or how to ask the right questions to hold them accountable.
Since graduating from the Latino Board Fellowship in 2022, I was selected to serve on the board of the Roxbury Innovation Center, which works with entrepreneurs to unlock mentorship/networks, funding, and other resources needed to grow a business. What I’ve appreciated the most about my role as a board member is my ability to thoughtfully contribute to the conversations being had about our communities. The Fellowship has not only supported me in pursuing board opportunities, but more importantly, it helped me understand how I can authentically lead with our value: “Work Con Ganas”.
As the oldest daughter and grandchild in a Dominican immigrant working class family, I would like to say I have always felt encouraged. I struggled with imposter syndrome due to the weight of expectation from family members and myself. This feeling is further exacerbated by the frequent experience of being the only Afro-Latina in the room. The Fellowship has reminded me that everyone encounters imposter syndrome because it’s a distraction from the “moment” you are on the brink of. My fellows helped me realize that we all struggle, but trusting our “why” which carried us to the room/table is powerful in itself. Our lived experiences can serve a purpose in our lives if we allow it.
Participating in the Latino Board Fellowship taught me that education reform can appear like a game of chess or checkers. We often see that policy can be reactive like a game of checkers or it can be a longstanding strategic and multi-layered game like chess. For far too long, we have taken a checkers approach to resolving deep-rooted large educational issues and I plan on creating solutions that outlive me. Solutions that are not only addressing the problems of now, but the problems that will arise in the future. Furthermore, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to connect with the leaders in my cohort who are also working towards lasting change for our community.
Knowledge is power and unfortunately the Latinx community struggles with obtaining both even when our population is growing by leaps and bounds. I strongly encourage anyone who is seeking the knowledge to lead with, connections to rely on, and motivation for the days when it feels like an impossible fight, to consider joining the Latino Board Fellowship. Changing our world begins with changing ourselves – you will transform in ways that you never thought possible, and step into new leadership roles that can make a difference for the future of the Latinx community.
Gabriela Taveras serves as the President of the Equal Pay Group, a strategy consulting firm with core competencies in pay equity, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and talent management. She was the first Afro-Latina Miss Massachusetts and a Miss America Top 5 who has been a dedicated advocate of equity and employment change.