Latinas in Comedy

MusicEverybody, regardless of their age or background, wants to laugh and be entertained. After having faced a stressful day, plenty of us would revel in the thought of having our mood lightened by turning to our favorite comedy shows for a laugh. It is safe to say that with mediums like television, YouTube, and Netflix, comedy has never been more accessible in this country. However, by whom the comedy is being performed is what we as viewers and audience members should be taking into consideration at present.

It can also be safe to say that diverse identities are definitely represented in the world of comedy, particularly in stand-up comedy, for example, but to what extent? In many ways, comedy in the United States is still an industry that is dominated by men. So what does that mean for female comedians, more specifically, Latinas? Well, there are certainly Latina comedians who have risen to fame, overcoming the obstacles that the industry has placed before them, such as Anjelah Johnson and Cristela Alonzo, both of whom have had successful stand-up careers. In their performances, Johnson and Alonzo have been known to discuss their experiences growing up in Mexican American households. In fact, Alonzo even had her own show, Cristela.

Although there are those in the industry who are striving to connect to audiences of diverse backgrounds, there are still well-known comedians who would argue against this practice.

“Without diversity in comedy…we limit ourselves to listening to the same kinds of experiences and points of view, which limits our ability to progress,” states 21-year-old Emily Crispell. Emily suggests that comedy intersecting with identities that relate to gender, ethnicity, culture, class, and so on, help create performances that are more accessible to modern Americans.

One particular Latina comedian whose work reflects Emily’s perspective is Sandra Valls, who has been doing stand-up since the mid-2000s. In her stand-up routines, Valls is known for discussing how her identities as a lesbian and as a Mexican American intersect. “One of my goals is to represent the LGBT community and Latinos and women, and to make a difference, not just be funny,” states Valls in a 2007 interview.

Both Sandra Valls as a professional comedian and Emily Crispell as a viewer can agree that relatability is essential when it comes to finding the humor in another’s jokes and stories, especially since the reason why one may become a fan of a particular comedian usually goes beyond a single joke. For example, Emily comments that she is a big fan of Aubrey Plaza’s role as April Ludgate in NBC’s Parks and Recreation. “A lot of people don’t seem to know that she is Latina because she is fair skinned but she is half Puerto Rican. Recently, she “came out” as Latina in an interview…she talked about not feeling Latina enough… I really connected to Aubrey Plaza’s struggle…” Emily is half Dominican and understands what it is like to be ethnically misidentified.

It may be that in terms of diversity, the American comedy industry is nowhere near perfect, especially when it comes to the influence of Latinos and Latinas. However, it is clear that through the work of comedians like Anjelah Johnson, Cristela Alonzo, Sandra Valls, and Aubrey Plaza, progress is being made. As representatives of the Latino community, they are able to draw attention to the big issues like immigration and discrimination, and even daily concerns relating to food and language differences.

Hollywood Movie Director Carmen Marron

Carmen Marron is a filmmaker and the founder of Sparkhope Productions, a company dedicated to creating films that bring awareness to women’s issues and teen struggles. Latinitas got the chance to speak with Hollywood movie director Carmen Marrón about her upcoming Latino-focused film, and her advice to Latinitas on how to chase your dreams! Carmen produced the 2011 movie ‘Go For It’ starring Gina Rodriguez and her new movie ‘Endgame’ is set to hit theatres soon. Her story is sure to inspire you to follow your destiny.Film Producer

Latinitas Reporter (Mariel):

Hi Carmen! Why don’t you tell us about your newest movie ‘Endgame’ that you presented at the Dallas Film Festival ?


Endgame is my latest movie and it is an inspirational drama that is actually inspired by true events in Texas. We shot the movie in Brownsville, Texas. It’s about a teacher who teaches at a time in which Brownsville, Texas was the third poorest community in the US. The teacher takes a bunch of these detention kids (Rico Rodriguez from Modern Family plays the lead character) and starts teaching them about chess thinking that this would be a positive way to keep them focused on school and keep them out of trouble. Through practice and over time he realizes that they’re really good, so he puts a team together. Lo and behold, this team starts winning! They ended up winning all the regionals. Then in the teacher’s second year as coach for the team, they ended up winning the state championship. And then they ended up winning 7 years in a row after that! It’s an amazing story.

L: Well, I’m excited to see this film. How did it go showing the film at the Dallas Film Festival?

C: Oh, phenomenal! We screened the film twice at the festival and the audience loved it. They really did. The theatrical release is probably going to be at the end of summer. The distributor is still looking into different theatres. Right now it’s scheduled just for the East Coast and the West Coast, but the distributor is actively looking to put in in theatres in Chicago, and probably in Dallas.

L: Another topic I wanted to touch on: Both of your films – ‘Go For It’ and ‘Endgame’ – feature Latino leads and lots of other Latino characters. How does your identity as a Latina woman play a role in the movies you choose?

C: Well, I’ll tell you a little bit of my background because I think that’s just as big a part. I actually was a guidance counselor in South Phoenix. I grew up in inner city Chicago in an all Latino, very poverty-stricken community. I was one of ten kids. I put myself through college, through graduate school, and then I personally chose to work in the direst school district because I felt like I could relate to the kids. So when I moved to Phoenix I chose to work in the poorest community because I used to be one of those kids, I related to them.

But what I saw as guidance counselor was that these kids really looked up to characters in television and film as role models for guidance and answers, and it killed me. I was seeing young kids look up to Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, literally even dying their hair and buying colored contacts. And so I thought, “Oh my gosh, there are hardly any Latino role models on television and in film!” And I saw that the majority of Latinas in Hollywood played the maids, the housekeepers, the nannies. That’s when I decided to become a filmmaker. And I made the conscious decision to specifically focus on creating roles for Latinos and young women that are very empowering and show them in leadership positions while also addressing their issues.

L: Were there any failures along the path to success?

C: Oh gosh, yes. I had family and friends telling me to stop, to just give up, that it wouldn’t work. It was like 2 years of people slamming the door on me or laughing at me. It took me seven years to finish my first film. In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about making a movie. I set up and researched everything. I actually got a job as a pharmaceutical rep just to help me pay the way to making my own film. I basically moved to LA with nothing but a dream, and I made it happen, ultra low budget.

L: I’m so curious to know: how did you keep the fire in you to keep trying despite the whole world telling you not to?

C: To be totally honest, I can get emotional right now just talking about it. It was my firm belief in the message I wanted to send young girls: that they could achieve their dreams. I had been working with girls that didn’t think there was anything for them out there besides getting married and having kids, and a lot of these girls were getting pregnant at really young ages, and I just desperately believed my movie could inspire girls and make a difference in their lives. They have the right to be proud about themselves. I truly believe it was the path I was supposed to take in life. I believe that the life I’m leading is my destiny.

L: That’s so inspiring! Do you have any special message for Latinitas?

C: If I can do it, you can do it. Anything you can imagine can become your reality. Focus on your goals and give it your all. You have a destiny to fulfill.

Career Spotlight: Ada Alvarez Conde

Ada Alvarez Conde, Women’s Rights AdvocateAdaAlvarez
Position: Senate & Fundación Alto al Silencio
Director of the Committee for Women Issues
Hometown:  San Juan Puerto Rico

Describe your work:
I founded a non-profit to create awareness of dating violence and to prevent domestic violence. I’ve given more than 300 conferences in schools, universities, communities, churches or wherever invited. Since I’ve been so active, I also got into policy to eradicate violence. After all my activism I got a job at the Senate because of proposals of bills I wrote to criminalize dating violence, among other policy I’ve been able to write. In the Senate, I’m the Director of the Committee for Women Issues which means any legislation related to gender and women will pass through here. I have to do everything so it goes through the democratic process for it to become law (public hearings, etc to be approved in Senate) and then House, maybe signed by the Governor and becomes a Law.

Education & Training: I have a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Gender Studies from the University of Puerto Rico, a Masters in Science in Mass Communication from Florida International University and I’m doing a PhD in History of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I also have 2 post-graduate degrees/certificates -one in documentary filmmaking and other in Diplomacy and International Relations (I’m happy to study so much, a proud #latinathatreads a lot). I’ve been volunteering since I was 14. I believe a great tool to prepare for my career was to develop experience. I applied to an internship in 2006 where I worked with Nancy Pelosi, it was a joint program of The Washington Center with PR and Government. After that, I participated in an internship with HACU, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. While studying Journalism I became an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalist, where I have served in the Board for 4 years in different positions. I believe the best thing about college were extra curricular activities, applying to internships and saving money to travel. I have traveled with my school in several occasions and I believe it was the best thing I invested in. A lot of people are afraid to be alone because they think they can’t handle situations. It is when you are alone and abroad that you confront yourself and everything you are. When you succeed in doing something, you gain self love and freedom. Being independent and seeing what you are worth is the best thing about the college experience.

How did you find your current job?
I found my current job doing a media tour. I wrote 2 bills (drafts) and I gave 20 conferences in a month. I was proposing a law so that February (as US does already) is declared Dating Violence Awareness Months in Puerto Rico. I wrote a Dating Violence Law. After doing an educational campaign and sending several press releases, I got a Senator to interview me, I landed the job!

What is your favorite part of your job?
I love my job because I feel very complete. I’m having a salary for the first time to do my activism all day. The financial road has been really rocky, but I’ve been blessed that all this work has paid off and I know I have a bunch more to give!

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is balancing life. I think there’s a lot of pressure given to women in politics. I have heard many times that I can do this job because I don’t have kids yet. People have questioned why am I not married yet. This is clearly a gender issue, I don’t see people asking that to any guys working here. However, a lot of people see me as a motivation. Every time I feel I help save a life through education or legislation I feel blessed. I have been through two open heart surgeries and I need one more next year. To have a job like this requires a lot of sacrifices and hour;  however, we need to balance our personal life with our professional life. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I plan to work as hard. Kids and family to a women should be a motivation not a limitation. Is very important to have support from your family. If by any chance you don’t have family support, you are broke or you have a health or personal issue, look for strength and remember we are warriors. See yourself in the mirror and say “yo valgo mucho” (I am worth a lot). Spread the word of solidarity. The world needs more peace instead of violence and it starts with a smile.

No seas víctima del silencio
Don’t become a victim of silence
Twitter @AdaAlvarez8

Girl Power at Pachanga Fest

MusicAnother success for Pachanga Latino Music Festival! On May 14-16 the music event and Austin cultural staple expanded to include cities Dallas and Houston for the first time. Last year Pachanga proved a huge hit when crowds flocked to see singer Julieta Venegas  and this year, its 8th year running, the fest continued to draw crowds with a mix of well-known Hispanic musicians and bands and smaller, indie ones.

The crowds Pachanga attracts are also impressively diverse, demonstrating the fest’s ability to cater to many different types of people. Earlier in the day families with small children abounded, exploring the many kid-focused activities organized for little ones. A little later, once the big-name bands like Compass and Kinky began to play, the groups of teenagers and adults sans kids poured into the fest. What’s more people came all over Texas, out-of-state and even outside the country as many Mexican tourists showed up to cheer on national favorites like Ceci Bastida and Kinky.

A noticeable theme throughout the fest was the impressive display of musical ‘girl power.’ Throughout the day and evening the fest featured girl bands or female musicians whose messages and styles expressed confidence in their femininity and in their dreams. In fact, one of the first bands to take the stage was none other than Austin, Texas’s own “Tiarra Girls”, a local band that has taken the city by storm. A rock band of three teenage sisters, they delighted the crowd by performing their own songs as well as covers of Selena and Juanes. Keep an eye on these girls – they are going places!

Not long after Ceci Bastida, Tijuana native who began her singing career at age 15, took the stage and bared her soul with pieces that explored politics and violence from a woman’s uniquely deep perspective. She has said in interviews that when she composed such pieces she was pregnant, wondering how to bring new life into such a dark world.  Her singing and lyrics felt uniquely female as they at once explored her fears and sought empowerment through them.

But perhaps the biggest hit of the night was Mala Rodriguez, who traveled all the way from Spain for a rare North American musical performance! Raised in a poor family she became involved in the music scene as a teenager and since become one of the first women to achieve success in Spanish-language hip-hop. At Pachanga she mesmerized the audience with fierce rap sets whose sheer power and speed most audiences are only used to hearing from male rappers.

Pachanga oganizers certainly chose well by including powerful female figures in their line-up. Who would Latinitas like to see in the lineup next year? Any ideas?

Mexican Girl Genius

MexicanGirlGeniusPaloma Noyola Bueno has been called a genius and the “next Steve Jobs.” In 2013 Wired magazine, a popular American publication that covers technology and business, compared this Mexican girl to the technology innovator Steve Jobs. The magazine compared the ten-year-old Paloma Noyola Bueno to the creator of Apple, proclaiming her technological and mathematical genius. She had just achieved the highest math score in the country on an exam similar to the United States’ SATs. She also achieved the third highest Spanish score.

Paloma’s genius comes from a surprising place. When she aced her exams she was jus a little girl living in poverty in Matamoros, Mexico. Her father had died of cancer a few months beforehand and her mother supported the family by selling metal scraps and food. What’s more, the school Paloma attended was next to a waste dump and lacked basic facilities like running water. It was also located in an incredibly dangerous area where drug cartels often battled. Two of Paloma’s classmates had mysteriously disappeared earlier that year. But in an environment dominated by poverty and violence, and without the opportunities or education that someone like Steve Jobs enjoyed, this little girl is proving that anything is possible. In her own words, she told media she believes “if you want it, you can do it.”

Not only does Paloma believe in her own ability to succeed despite the odds, she wants to help others in the process. Speaking to Mexican news outlet Azteca Noticias in October 2013 she said: “No seré la próxima Steve Jobs. Seré más grande porque voy a perfeccionar y hacer más fácil la técnica de la educación en el país.” (“I won’t be the next Steve Jobs. I will be greater because I will perfect and simplify Mexico’s educational techniques.”) She went on to add that she would like to be a mathematics teacher and work to ensure better education for children throughout Mexico. She does not want to just give children work. She believes what is most important is teaching children how to study and how to be motivated.

Since Paloma’s appearance in magazines and news outlets following her amazing test scores she has been low-key, staying out of the limelight to concentrate on her studies. Nonetheless her remarkable mind has catapulted her into somewhat of a celebrity in Mexico. Just a few months ago local government and philanthropists combined forces to buy the young girl and her impoverished family their own home on donated land. Thanks to Paloma’s dedication to her passion her family has escaped the unsafe living conditions of their former residence. What’s more, the entire nation is still praising her talent. Matamoros’s own mayor, Lety Salazar, marveled at Paloma’s determination to fight for her dreams no matter her circumstances.

To learn more about Paloma watch her Spanish-language interview with Univisión Noticias linked here. She is truly an inspiration, and an emblem of great things to come in Mexico. Keep an eye on her!

Latinas in Government & Law

March is Women’s History Month. sonia-sotomayorTo celebrate, Latinitas has decided to feature the wonderful and revolutionary women in history who have increased the representation of Latinas in government, politics and law.

Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Justice appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. She was born on June 25, 1954 in Bronx, New York. She is a descendent of Puerto Rican parents. She graduated summa com laude from Princeton University in 1976. She  went to Yale Law School where she attained her J.D. in 1979. Aside from working as an Assistant to the Attorney General, she was an avid participant for fundraising for funds that benefited the Puerto Rican society in New York. From 1992-1998, she served as a Federal Judge for the Southern District of New York. In 1998, she got promoted to as Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit. That was until 2009, when President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice for the United States. From there, Congress confirmed the president’s request at a  vote of 68–31.

Hilda Solis
Hilda Solis is a politician who has membership in the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She was born on October 20, 1957, in Los Angeles, California to a Nicaraguan mother and a Mexican father. She obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Solis later received her Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. She kept on climbing up the political later until in 2000 Hilda Solis defeated the Democratic incumbent and she won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the first Latina to have ever serve for the U.S. Senate. From 2009-2013 she was the United States Secretary of Labor, meaning that she took care of any laws involving worker unions.

Linda Chavez-Thompson
Linda Chavez-Thompson is an Mexican-American radio personality and commentator. She was born on June 17, 1947 to American parents. She is a descendant of Mexican immigrants who had moved to New Mexico in the 17th century. In 1975, she was employed as an editor for the publications of one of the largest Education Unions in the United States, “American Federation of Teachers”. Chavez is a Republican and during President Ronald Reagan’s administration she became the highest-ranking woman serving as Staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. During George W. H. Bush’s administration, she became the first Latina to ever be nominated to the United States Cabinet as the Secretary of Labor. After her time as a politician, she has become a FOX News analyst.

Career Spotlight: Assistant Instructor

booksCarolyn Rhea Drapes is an instructor in the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), she holds a PhD and imparts English and business writing classes.

What are some of your job responsibilities?

As a graduate student, I seek to use the dissertation process and time to create new knowledge and collaborate with my peers. Moreover, as an Assistant Instructor, I am tasked with gaining teaching experience as an RWS instructor of undergraduate rhetoric and writing, technical writing, and business writing courses.

Describe your educational background and how it helped you prepare for your career?

After first graduating from Loretto, I entered UTEP immediately, but then left school to help raise a family and work. Later, when my younger daughter entered high school, I re-enrolled at UTEP and completed a BA in Creative Writing. I then entered the RWS program and completed a MA in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, and am now in its doctoral program. All said whether in the workplace or traditional classroom situations, my personal and work experiences have enabled me to bring a unique perspective to the classroom. In addition, working as a corporate Webmaster, visual specialist, and social media maven from the mid-90s through today has helped me to use this eclectic skill set which is perfect for teaching. Overall, I see this as a natural progression.

How did you find your current job?

Previously, all positions with the exception my position with El Paso Natural Gas Company (which was found through an agency) was obtain with the help of friends and associates. My current job differs in that it was acquired from being accepted into the graduate program. As an Assistant Instructor, I am assigned courses to teach each semester, including summer classes when the opportunity arises.

How did you prepare for this career?

To prepare to teach in the program, I first earned the required number of graduate level course credits, which included a pedagogy course. This training also included shadowing an experienced instructor within the program. That semester I attended her class and observed others while also attending my graduate courses. Before the end of that semester, I was helping lecture. Throughout the semester, my teaching mentor and I normed grades and discussed various issues that a teacher is likely to encounter in the classroom. Currently, I attend several meetings each semester with those in the program; in these, we have the opportunity to learn and explore various teaching methods. Continuing professional education in the field ensures that our camaraderie remain vital, informed, and progressive.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Helping students gain their own set of writing and research skills is always important. However, a favorite aspect is appreciating their hard work and why they seek to remain in school and work towards a specific goal. Each goal is as different as the students I teach. This inspires me as I enjoy hearing about their lives and listening to their stories. This helps me understand their situation, which allows me to encourage them to use their current and past experiences when earning their degree. Their reasons for furthering their education help me immensely. Each day in the classroom, I learn new things, and this helps me improve my own writing and research methods.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

An important challenge is to balance my research and writing with teaching and, of course, to make time for my family. My family supports me, which is vitally important to my teaching and working towards my degree. Without them, my life would be quite empty and more difficult to navigate.

What impact does your profession have on young Latinas?

We as graduate instructors seek to help all students better understand the importance of working towards a goal, whether it is the goal of an assignment, or the goal of completing their degree. We support their aims and goals, no matter the degree. Rarely do I ever see a student that is undeclared or uncertain about what they want to do with their lives; this shows me how focused our student population is. Latinas, as are all students, whether young or returning, are valued greatly at this institution. To that end, we are given the opportunity to impart our knowledge and to positively support them.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Photography, drawing, and writing have been life-long passions. I have found that I tend to capture images surrounding my life each day and then seek to manipulate and use them creatively. Even if I am unable to leave campus or home, I find I am constantly composing, whether with images or texts. I also like to read and explore social media trends.

Does living in a border city make you more aware of Hispanic issues?

Of course. My entire life has been a voyage between cultures and economic situations, even when my family and I left El Paso for life in Northern New Mexico for a time. Moreover, as a child of and partner in bicultural marriages, I find we all walk a fine line between various communities constantly. It is interesting to view how each group works with, for, and against each other. We blend and separate constantly, which makes it difficult to find and work for positive change for the whole.

What advice would you give to help girls to prepare for a job like this?

I would say that young women of all ages should think about what it is that they wish to accomplish and then, how to best attain that goal or sets of goals. While the path may shift or change, each student, each woman has a great opportunity to enrich their lives by completing their degree and stepping out into the wider world ready to make a positive impact. If they seek a graduate degree, they should understand that they would enter not only a scholarly environment for themselves, but also learning one for her and for others as well. She will need to understand that she is there to share her skills and knowledge so that the next group of young Latinas can learn and grow positively from the experiences she will share with them.

Leading Latina: Rosa Rios Valdez

Written by Prakriti Bhardwa

rosa_rios_valdezThe passion that Rosa Rios Valdez has for economic development is astounding. For the last 24 years, Rosa has worked tirelessly to build BCL of Texas, a statewide nonprofit, from the ground up, helping establish BCL as one of Texas’s most prominent lenders and non-profit organizations.

She was there from the beginning, when there were only two employees in a former bank building, to today when that huge office now seems a little too small for the fast growing staff. By the time Rosa Rios Valdez was asked to lead BCL of Texas and become CEO, she had already had many years of experience in economic development.

By closely shadowing her managers and mentors, Rosa was able to gain the real life experience that many young adults lack and ultimately hope for. “I realized that I liked learning about entrepreneurs, learning about their business and their stories, and about their expansions,” said Rosa. “I was very lucky that all my bosses pushed me to take every opportunity that came my way. They also provided me with many ways to show and build my leadership skills in the economic development field.”

It wasn’t Rosa’s idea to start BCL of Texas, it was just something that came her way. She had been working in the economic development branch of a Central Texas utilities company, Rosa noticed that there wasn’t much of an SBA loan presence in these small rural towns she was visiting. After making note of this, Rosa mentioned this to the administration. They listened to her observation and followed up with her.

“They called me in a meeting in the office and pushed an envelope towards me,” said Rosa. “Inside the envelope was an application to start a small CDC. They told me that I was right, they didn’t have a presence in these small towns and they wanted me to lead this new venture. I gave the envelope back; it wasn’t something I had envisioned myself doing. I thanked them for the opportunity. However, I thought about it, and well, that was 24 years ago. It’s been very good.”

Throughout the years, the job hasn’t gotten any easier, but Rosa doesn’t mind. Being available to families, communities, businesses, small towns and civic leaders are all in a day’s work. “With BCL of Texas, we were regional and now we are state-wide,” said Rosa.

“So I would say that my job is harder now. We have hundreds of communities that we are responsible for assisting and huge regions of Texas that we serve. So the job is extremely demanding and you need to know and correctly represent the priorities of each of these small towns that BCL serves.” Rosa gets her inspiration from not only the people she surrounds herself with, but mainly through her passion for helping others and her commitment to helping local businesses and families. “I want to be a leader to the people around me and I want them to see the dedication that I put into the projects and people that come to us,” said Rosa. “I want to inspire and help them see how important it is to be dedicated to a cause and to push through any difficulties they may have.”

Being CEO isn’t a job that just anyone can do. The leader and face of the company has to have many different skill sets and has to be very adaptable to their surroundings and the people that they interact with. This tractability is something Rosa feels is important for a successful company. “You have to be extremely organized and you never know what a customer will need, what kind of call is going to come in,” said Rosa. “You always have to make sure that you know everything about what’s going on with the company. You have to be very focused on deadlines. You also have to be a great listener.” Another thing that Rosa appreciates is her staff. While her job continues to become more work-load heavy, she knows that she can rely on the people around her to pick up projects and things that she may not be able to. “What makes it work and the factor that pulls everything together is having skilled staff that can perform in all lines of business,” said Rosa. “A great staff can provide quality customer service and skills to help all BCL customers. That’s what makes the job a little easier.”

Being accustomed to such a fast paced and busy lifestyle, it seems that Rosa never has time to slow down. She never envisioned being CEO would mean having a job that carried over the 8-5 time frame. Working longer hours gets tough, but it’s something that Rosa is passionate about so she doesn’t necessarily mind. “I left a big organization with wonderful benefits to join a much smaller nonprofit,” said Rosa. “But the mission and the cause fit me. I have no regrets. It’s been wonderful.”

Career Spotlight: Chief Communications Officer

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Yvette A. Nuñez
Position & Title:
Chief Communications Officer
Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc.
City & State:
Philadelphia, PA
What are some of your job responsibilities?
I lead our $24M multi service non-profit organization’s fundraising, communications, special events, corporate relations, community relations, civic engagement and volunteer management efforts; serve as member of executive leadership team overseeing a staff of 4. I manage the agency’s Corporate Advisory Council, featuring Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies as well as manage external vendors including PR agency, photographers, design firms, and promotional products companies. I develop strategic leadership communications, including speeches, press releases, Op-Eds, and content for brochures, annual reports, and electronic media. I also serve as the agency’s social media manager and design agency collateral as needed. Congreso is one of the nation’s Top Hispanic Non-profits in the Nation, and I serve as liaison to national and corporate partnerships.
What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.
I have an undergraduate degree in journalism. In college, I was the first Latina to serve as Editor in Chief of the school newspaper, where I managed a team of 50+ freelance writers, photographers, designers, etc. This experience gave me a good understanding for the deadline-driven pace of a newsroom, and later as I became a non-profit communications professional, I benefited from the skills in management, deadlines, and multitasking that it helped enhance. I also worked as a clerical supervisor and a legal assistant…AT THE SAME TIME!
How did you find your current job?
I built a strong network and great reputation for the work I was doing in the non-profit and government sectors. I had previously worked with the agency as a partner, and when it came under new leadership, a position became available requiring my exact combination of skills.
What did you do to prepare for this career?
You can do PR anywhere. You should merge it with something you’re passionate about. I love being Latina and working in the Latino community. I am blessed to have the opportunity to use my skills for the benefit of a great organization that helps 16,000 people a year. I am not a social worker, but I love promoting what our staff and clients are doing together for the betterment of Latino Philadelphia.To prepare for this career, I had a natural talent for writing, and an upbringing that predisposed me to prioritizing the voices of poor people of color.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love any day that I get to spend with our clients, especially the older adults who come by to visit. It’s an immediate fill my bucket with love kind of day. I also just LOVE bringing an event/fundraiser to fruition. It takes a lot of planning, hustling, visioning, and negotiating. But when it all comes together (and it always does) is the best part.
What is the most challenging part of your job
I think the most challenging is not being able to be all things to all people. When you wear a lot of different hats, sometimes they tip over and you just can’t manage it. Learning to manage my time, expectations, and diverse interests are tricky, but doable.
What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
I would say that you have to love to write, understand the story and/or event from the end user’s perspective before the story is written and before the event is planned, and find something your passionate about.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
Go on dates with my kids, travel and read.

Career Spotlight: Chief School Officer

Danna Diaz 977301_10201231510615653_278848363_o
Position & Title: Chief School Officer, Area One Superintendent
Employer: El Paso ISD
City & State: El Paso

What are some of your job responsibilities?
I serve elementary and middle schools that feed into four high schools. They are Bowie, Coronado, El Paso and Jefferson/Silva. I work with principals and central office to ensure students are learning in the classroom and that teachers have the tools they need to facilitate instruction.My experience working with students from diverse economic backgrounds and my bilingual skills have provided me with the tools and skills to engage all stakeholders in the educational process. Specifically, as a leader, I respond to the needs of stakeholders by establishing positive relations with the school and community and working with the members of the school district. In addition, I promote effective school communication and build coalitions to support the entire learning community.

What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.
I am the first in my family to attend college. I received my Associates in General Studies from Central Texas College, Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Masters of Science, Mid-Management and Superintendent Certifications from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.My personal and educational experiences have helped me understand the resilience and persistence that is needed to succeed in today’s public schools. I know how important it is to receive an education and break the cycle of poverty, addiction and domestic violence. My passion is to make a difference in the lives of students and families.

How did you find your current job?
The position was posted by Proact, a national search firm. I applied for the position. I was screened by Proact personnel and interviewed three times by the Superintendent, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and a member of the EPISD Board of Managers.

What did you do to prepare for this career?
I started my career as a bilingual teacher, assistant principal, principal and central office administrator. In addition to my professional experiences and education, I am a graduate of Proact Supes Academy, Center for Courage and Renewal, Academy for Leaders, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendent’s (ALAS) Superintendent Leadership Academy and the California Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALSA) Mentoring Program. My professional experiences, my education and the four learning programs prepared me for the position I have now.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I love working with the principals, teachers, parents and students of Area One. They are smart, intelligent and a group of caring individuals. My days are filed with conversations with them that impact the schools academically and/or operationally.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is when you find out a student is hurt in an accident or in the hospital. I know deep down inside they want to be in school. All I can do is pray!

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
My advice would be to love what you are learning. If you want to be a teacher, start there. Keep going to school to prepare you for the next level. Don’t stop learning. Keep going!

What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I love spending time with my family, going to the movies, working out in the gym and participating in yoga practice.



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