Showcasing the 2016 NCLR Innovation Lab

How NCLR STEM Is Creating Innovative Spaces for Latino Youth

By Cindy Zavala, NCLR Education Programs Associate

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The Innovation Lab student groups at the 2016 NCLR Líderes Summit Bienvenida

Last month in Orlando, NCLR STEM held the Innovation Lab Showcase during this year’s NCLR Líderes Summit. The NCLR Innovation Lab is a program that inspires social entrepreneurship by encouraging students to tackle some of the most pressing needs in their communities. Finalists presented their innovation and product they designed to meet a need in their community. The student finalists were from four NCLR Affiliates: Conexión Américas, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Gads Hill Center, and Sociedad Latina.

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Beyond the Summit

By Bernardette Pinetta, 2015 Líderes Summit Staffer

LideresLogoPeople often say that “necessity is the mother of invention.” It is also often the needs of our community that push us to go to places we have never ventured before.

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.

Life as a Líderes Summit Staff Member

By David Castillo, Communications Department, NCLR

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Former Lideres Summit staffer Emily Gonzalez says serving on the Summit staff helped solidify her plans to pursue a career in service.

Sometimes we don’t know what to do with our future until an opportunity comes along that opens our eyes and reveals our talent and passion. That’s how Emily Gonzalez got involved in service work. During her time as an NCLR Líderes Summit staffer last year in Los Angeles, Emily was able to hone her skills as a leader. The New York City native now plans to make service part of her future career.

The first in her family to go to college, Emily graduated from Brown University in 2013. She studied education with an emphasis on human development. While she enjoyed her field, upon completing the program Emily realized that teaching wasn’t what she wanted to do after all.

“I kind of fell into service. It was always something I did in high school and middle school. Then it continued in college,” said Gonzalez. “I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to be a part of a national organization [NCLR] and work with students advising them.”

As a summer intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in 2011, Emily attended the NCLR Annual Conference. There she discovered the Líderes Summit, and she loved the experience. The summer after graduating from Brown, still not quite sure what she wanted to do, Emily applied to be a member of the Líderes Summit staff.

Emily served on the events committee, where she sought to use the planning skills learned there in her work as a college advisor in AmeriCorps VISTA. It was a fine selection, but starting out proved challenging. Production schedules, speaker intros, and some of the event planning are done on-site by the Summit staff just one week before the Summit begins. More than half of the team during Emily’s term were new, so there was a learning curve.

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“The theme last year [Think. Create. Aspire.] really resonated with my experience because we were thrown in right off the bat the first day we had training,” said Gonzalez. “At first I felt bit out of my comfort zone, but that was great because everyone was so supportive as a community.”

Despite the long hours and late nights, Emily says it was a truly worthwhile experience that continues to affect her work as an advisor at College Visions in Providence, Rhode Island. She also made some strong friendships in the process.

“Seeing how quickly we built relationships with each other helped me see how much good change could happen very quickly. I definitely try to pull that into the work I do,” said Gonzalez. “Whatever it is I’m doing with my students, I try to stay positive and see where I can build that relationship early and quickly so we can work together better.”

As for advice for incoming staff, Emily says folks should really reflect on what they’re going to bring to this experience.

“Make it your own. Even though there is somewhat of a routine to it, there’s always stuff you can do to make it new,” said Gonzalez. “If there’s someone you want to get to know, make sure you’re prepared to make that happen.”

We wish Emily the best of luck in the future, and we look forward to working with the new staff in making this year’s Líderes Summit an even greater success!

A Call to Action for Latino Youth!

By Cindy Zavala, Southeast Region Youth Advisory Committee Representative, Lideres

LideresLogoIt was such a pleasure to finally meet all the members of the 2013 Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and all the young Líderes face to face this past summer at the Lideres Summit in New Orleans. The energy and passion that all brought to this year’s Summit is still alive and well. We truly brought out the “Power of We,” from the informative workshops this year to the fun and entertaining talent show performances that I will always remember. I was inspired and moved.  You all have motivated me to continue to use the “Power of We” as I continue my role as the Southeast Region representative of the 2013 YAC.

If you didn’t know, the 2013 YAC will be working year around to support the Líderes program in its efforts to meet the needs of young Latino leaders. At the Summit, the YAC not only had opportunity to meet young Latino leaders from across the country, but we also had the opportunity to network with NCLR Affiliates from each region. Meeting with these Affiliates is essential as it is our job to connect with organizations from so we can   with whom we can explore and enter into  meaningful partnerships.  Continue reading