It’s Our Moment: Leadership Institute Empowers Latinas to Break Barriers

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Council District 2 employee Celeste Brown

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Celeste Brown is a graduate of the Latina Leadership Institute.

While women’s underrepresentation in public office, on boards, and on commissions is concerning, many local and national initiatives are committed to improving those statistics.

One San Antonio-based program encourages women to break barriers by empowering them with the tools, training, and a network driving to create positive change in our city, our state, and beyond.

Following a historic 2018 election that saw an increase of women – especially Latinas – elected to public office – and a recent study concluding that board positions for women and minorities doubled since 2012, there is ample momentum among women who are recognizing their power and their voice.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is committed to empowering women to develop their civic engagement and preparing them to take a seat at the table – be it on a board, a commission, or in public office – through the Latina Leadership Institute (LLI).

LLI is a nonpartisan leadership development program focused on ensuring more women pursue elected office and serve on federal, state, and local boards and commissions. Currently in its fourth year, the Hispanic Chamber is now accepting applications for the next cohort through Jan. 31.

In three short years, LLI has made a resounding impact on the women who have participated, and we are already seeing graduates meet the mission to increase female representation.

In October, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Judy Treviño, a graduate of the inaugural LLI class, to the Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board. On Jan. 1, Veronica Vasquez, of the second cohort, was sworn into office for judge of Bexar County Probate Court No. 2.

“As a graduate of the first class, an active member of the current steering committee,
and a recent appointee to the Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board, I wholeheartedly
believe in the purpose of LLI to help inspire Latinas to take their seat at the table,”
said Treviño, executive director of CCVI Ministries Inc.

Many graduates are now serving on boards, have run for office, pursued higher education and even started new nonprofits.

“San Antonio’s prosperity depends on an engaged community. The Latina Leadership Institute empowers women with the skills they need to lead conversations in the community and act as change agents,” said Laura Elizabeth Mayes, LLI graduate and communications strategist for the City of San Antonio. “Above all, LLI has given me a sisterhood of lasting friendships.”

LLI is a six-month program. Applicants must demonstrate a sincere interest in civic engagement, commitment to improving their community, and desire to increase their service to the community. They must present a clear vision and desire to sit on boards (corporate or nonprofit), explore state and national appointment positions, or run for public office.

“I have participated in various leadership programs, but this is by far the most valuable.
Everyday is so impactful, and the days are so different,” said Monica Treviño-Ortega, LLI
graduate and public information officer for the San Antonio River Authority. “There is
such a dynamic group of inspirational speakers, and every day I take away amazing
things.”

As co-chairs, along with a strong steering committee comprised of past LLI graduates, our goal is to harness the momentum created in the first three years of this one-of-a-kind leadership program. We aim to become a national model of filling the pipeline gap with women who want to pursue positions on boards, commissions, and elected office, and help them unlock their leadership potential.

San Antonio women can be at the forefront of changing the statistics for the better and building a sisterhood of hermanas who, together, can lead the future.

“The chemistry that the cohort has together, the different backgrounds we have, what’s driving everyone, that passion – it just bubbles up inside you and you feel that inspiration,” said Melissa Vela-Williams, LLI graduate and owner of MVW Communications. “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, you get moving forward, which will lead you where you need to go.”

If you want to make a difference, need to build a network, and  find the resources to make it happen, apply for the Latina Leadership Program by clicking here.

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