"I Didn't Know I Was A Leader"
Victoria Campoverde is a facilitator at Wilder’s Latino Leadership Program, a cultural liaison in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, a co-chair of the Board of Directors of Joyce Preschool, and a member the Consortium for Women Leaders in Public Service. These are just a few of the numerous ways she is involved in her community.
In short, Victoria is a leader.
But she didn’t think of herself in that way, especially during the challenging years after she and her family moved here from Peru in 1999. Victoria, a teacher by training, struggled to learn English, parent two children, and live in a neighborhood with no other Latinos around to offer support and guidance. “It was a scary reality for me to confront,” she says.
Victoria eventually became a preschool teacher and then program director at a Spanish-immersion school. She began creating curricula and working with families. In 2006, parents nominated her for a Latino leadership award. Until then, Victoria says, “I didn’t know I was a leader.”
The Power of Perception
Participants in Wilder’s leadership development programs don’t always see themselves as leaders in their communities. Changing that perception is a critical part of developing the capacity of community leaders. Wilder Center for Communities understands that when participants learn about how people can lead, they are better able to tap into their natural leadership abilities and apply them to create change.
The Latino Leadership Program, also known as Programa de Liderazgo Latino, is a six-week program conducted in Spanish that helps emerging Latino leaders learn about leadership styles, teamwork, goal-setting and other skills that help create community action. The program has many volunteers who understand how to engage with participants.
“You learn confidence,” Victoria says. “It’s a good opportunity for you to learn that you can do it.”
Victoria joined the Latino Leadership Program in its first session in 2007 under the leadership of Kate Kelsch. Damon Shoholm, who now oversees the Latino Leadership Program as well as several other leadership programs at Wilder, says that Victoria already had a strong sense of herself as a leader. “I think her work with the Latino Leadership Program helped to clarify for her that she was already leading in multiple ways,” he says.
After finishing the program, Victoria then helped refine the curriculum to better meet the cultural needs of participants and became a facilitator of the program, which has grown to include Latinos and Latinas of diverse educational, cultural and professional backgrounds.
Seven years later, she is still facilitating the program. “I see results,” Victoria says. “The Latino Leadership Program is really doing something for Twin Cities communities.”