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A Decade of Lifting Up Latinx Leadership


A Decade of Lifting Up Latinx Leadership

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Ten years ago, Ferris State University created the Latino Talent Initiative to service a need for leadership training amongst Latinx professionals in West Michigan. Since then, it has grown, been renamed to LEADeres, and seen more than 150 Latinx professionals graduate and go on to great success.

The six-month, non-credit lab has been designed to support participants in the pursuit of their life and career goals through personal and professional development. With a strong focus on identity formation and cultural awareness, as well as community and civic engagement, the program encourages participants to learn and work together while engaging with and learning from seasoned leaders. Thanks to the collaborative and cooperative nature of the program, participants graduate with a network of like-minded professionals to support and seek support from, as well as added confidence and skills.

In celebration of a decade of LEADeres, we spoke to Carlos Sanchez, Director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State University, who emphasized his pride in the program’s graduates, stating “Some have successfully run for office, others have moved up in their careers or changed employers.”

Carlos Sánchez, Director at Ferris State University Photo: Roli Mancera

When asked to share some of the program’s success stories, Sanchez was quick to point out that, with more than 150 graduates over the past decade, there have been many examples. He did, however, highlight Judge Juanita Bocanegra, who successfully ran for office, assisted by Reyna Masko from the same cohort, who acted as her campaign manager, as well as Paola Mendivil, who was part of the first cohort. “She graduated from the very first class, went back to school to finish her Bachelors at Ferris and has been coordinating the program for the past five years or so,” Sanchez said.

After 10 successful years operating in West Michigan, LEADeres hopes to expand into other areas in the state. A concurrent delivery of the program has already launched in Lakeshore, and the administration is in conversations with other localities in the interest of bringing the program to their communities. Additionally, plans are in the works for a more in-depth follow-up program for LEADeres graduates.

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The program continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the Latinx community, taking cues and feedback from participants and graduates. “LEADeres is not about me, this is for our Latinx professionals,” Sanchez stated. “The program is about them and for them. We develop the next generation of Latinx leaders and entrepreneurs.”
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