I am passionate about empowering the next generation of Latina Leaders, electing more progressive women into elected office and ensuring that foster youth, and people with developmental disabilities and their families have access to the services and resources they need.
I grew up in the Los Angeles foster care system, where I learned how access to public institutions is critical to the success of marginalized communities. As a child, I was one of five children in a Mexican immigrant household, where the adults were unable to vote and at best, wielded a fourth grade education. At age thirteen, I entered a public institution where less than 50 percent of foster youth graduate from high school and less than 3 percent graduate from a four-year university (Department of Children and Family Services 2009). At age 17, I emancipated from the foster care system and became an adult. Not knowing that 65 percent of foster youth who emancipate end up homeless, 70 percent are incarcerated within six months, and 50 percent of girls pregnant by age 19 (DCFS 2009), I survived because of the opportunities provided to me by the State of California, mentors and my sister. After graduating from Mills College with a B.A. in Public Policy, I worked to reform foster care policies as an employee of the State Legislature. Today, I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. These experiences motivate my professional aspirations to study public institutions, and teach and mentor underrepresented communities.
My teaching and research projects explore the distribution of power, and individual agency within public bureaucratic institutions. I uncover processes for successful inclusion and policy solutions that will enforce diversity. My primary site of study is the California Legislature. During the worse budget crisis since the Great Depression, I served as a Budget Consultant responsible for constructing the state budgets of over 40 departments. In 2012, I returned to the Legislature to complete my Master’s thesis in Sociology. Interviewing and observing some of the very people I once worked with, I examined the contributions of non-traditional stakeholders (e.g. women, people of color and low-income service recipients) who gained access to California’s policymaking process during the states budget crisis. Their inclusion allowed the State to creatively save dollars without dismantling programs. I left Sacramento to pursue a higher education because I saw that having data and documented lived experiences makes a difference to policymakers! I engage in our community through State Councils, our County Board of Education, non-profit boards and our SBLLN Steering Committee because I believe that everyone has valuable knowledge that is necessary to innovate and transform our community—especially under crisis.
I joined the SBLLN because it is a unique and necessary network. When I arrived in Santa Barbara, I wanted to connect with Latinas who understood the challenges and benefits of being a Latina woman. Connecting with likeminded women who want to improve themselves and transform the world by challenging stereotype of leadership has been amazing! Every event that we have, I feel the power of our collective group and I can see how we are transforming this community. I am confident that this community will be able to recognize and celebrate future generations of Latinas with much more ease. As a Steering Committee member, I am honored to serve our network by helping to implement events that are meaningful, inspirational and create opportunities for long-term mentorship and networking. Our newsletter helps us become visible leaders and recognize the work that our members do to further their careers and our collective image as Latina leaders.
Leadership is a process that empowers others. As a foster youth, leaders impacted my life by providing opportunities and serving as mentors. My definition of a leader is, someone who facilitates change by empowering others. Respect for others and their expertise (whether scholastic or lived) is critical to the leadership process. A leader empowers others thorough self-awareness, social awareness and motivation. This process inspires others to pursue a vision that implements short and long-term transformations for the individual and their community.
If you would like to nominate someone for our Latina Spotlight, we’d love to hear from you!