By Bernardette Pinetta, 2015 Líderes Summit Staffer
The first time I heard of NCLR was through a Facebook link for the NCLR Líderes Summit Staff Application. I applied because I wanted more experience to better serve my community. As I boarded my return flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles, I realized that in addition to learning new ways to serve, I also made lasting connections with people who will support my professional and personal journey.
When I arrived in Kansas City, I looked forward to meeting everyone, but I was nervous about not having enough experience with NCLR. Indeed, being only five feet tall I felt small next to my larger-than-life colleagues, but our minds and hearts were so interconnected with the goal of giving back and inspiring others that I never felt out of place. Our theme for Líderes this year was Lead. Empower. Connect., which fit our team perfectly.
With only four days of planning time we immediately went to work. We had to learn the functions of each role, how to facilitate workshops, and discuss media engagement. Luckily, our discussions and group structure were organic. One idea would be planted and then branch off into several new ideas. If there was something that wasn’t working out, there was already another proposal on the table so we could move forward. Just being in such a dynamic group where people would step up and step down to respect and encourage an inclusive space for opinions was something to behold. Even though we usually had to carry an omelet box in one hand and orange juice in the other so we could eat breakfast and start planning early in the morning, everyone looked forward to these meetings, excited for what our participants were going to experience.
Whether in the role of a Lead, Supporter, or Floater, we always saw that the students who came to the Summit were engaged, and looked forward to the different workshops. Topics covered healthy relationships, peer advocacy, credit wealth, and many others. The opportunity for students—whether in high school or college—to not only listen to professionals, but also network and leave empowered from these workshops was what made the Líderes Summit so special. Our job as Summit Staff was more than just producing successful events; our goals were to make those that attended feel welcome and empowered to lead in their communities. With each workshop and event our goals began to materialize.
Students continue to post pictures of the event with staff and other new friends they met. They continue to let us know the difference Líderes made in their lives and they ask how they can be part of the staff in the future. Líderes allowed me and everyone else who attended to connect with people who shared similar experiences and goals to form solidarity within our growing Latino community. It provided a platform for empowerment and leadership through inclusion and knowledge.
While the 2015 NCLR Líderes Summit has ended, the connections made and the knowledge acquired continue to be passed on through our work, communities, and schools.