Members of the 2019 Latino Leadership Program

Leaders in Community: Latino Leadership Program Graduates Make a Difference in School, Work and Life

Every year, about 30 members of the Latino community come together for the Latino Leadership Program, a six-week program offered in Spanish. Program participants come from a variety of backgrounds and use the skills and concepts from the program throughout the community. Whether they start a fundraising organization for people in need or use their skills in their daily life, participants leave the program with one common belief: Everyone can be a leader.

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Fernando Cazales & Samir Roldan

Fernando and Samir, a married couple, use their leadership skills in church and at work.

Samir Roldan and Fernando Cazalas, graduates of the Latino Leadership Program

When Fernando Cazales joined the Latino Leadership Program two years ago, he appreciated learning about leadership concepts and practicing them in the program. At the time, Fernando was secretary of a prayer group at his church, and he began applying the concepts he learned in the leadership program at his church. “It was incredible because I was taking the classes and I was using the skills,” he says.

With his new knowledge, Fernando took on greater leadership responsibility in his church when the pastor asked him to lead his own prayer group. Just recently, Fernando hosted an event at his church attended by more than 100 people.

Fernando found the program so useful that he signed up again, and he persuaded his wife, Samir Roldan, to join the program, too. Samir enjoyed learning about different temperaments, which helps her communicate better at her job in a restaurant. “I like it a lot,” Samir says, with her husband translating from Spanish into English. “It really helped me with relationships with my coworkers.”

Fernando thinks it’s particularly important for members of the Latino community who have less formal education to learn that they are leaders. “Many in the Latino community didn’t finish high school,” he says. “We think that leadership is for professionals.”

Sandra Huge

Sandra chairs the Latino Consent Decree Parent Advisory Council. That’s not the only way she leads.

Sandra Huge, graduate of Wilder's Latino Leadership Program

Leadership and community involvement is nothing new to Sandra Huge, a 2014 graduate of the Latino Leadership Program who also completed a train-the-trainer course. Sandra was a biologist and teacher when she lived in Mexico. Now a resident of Saint Paul, she sometimes volunteers for a community organization called PENTA MINNESOTA, she takes Early Childhood and Family Education classes with her 3-year-old-daughter and she chairs the Latino Consent Decree Parent Advisory Council for Saint Paul Public Schools.

The Parent Advisory Council issues recommendations to the superintendent and school board about the education of Latino students of limited English proficiency. Many council members are graduates of the Latino Leadership Program, Sandra says. The skills and concepts taught in the leadership program, such as a willingness to listen and communicate and the ability to work as a team, are helpful on the council.

In addition to honing those skills, Sandra realized during the Latino Leadership Program that people can be leaders in many ways, which made her feel free to explore other ways to be a leader. “I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean you are the one in front all the time,” she says. “For me to understand that part, it changed everything for me.”

José Antonio Sanchez

José, a business owner, was inspired to become a better board member.

Jose Antonio Sanchez, Latino Leadership Program graduate

José Antonio Sanchez joined the Latino Leadership Program four years ago, when he served on the board of directors of Mercado Central, a Minneapolis marketplace where he owned a grocery store. “I wanted to have more ideas on how to be a better leader,” says José, who trained as a lawyer in Mexico.

The program delivered. José explored how to work with people, how to work with teams and how to be a leader. “The curriculum is very good,” he says. He noticed something missing, however: Most of the participants and all of the co-facilitators were women. José suggested adding a male co-facilitator and completed a train-the-trainer session to help lead the next Latino Leadership Program. His first time as co-facilitator was very challenging, but by the third time, he knew the concepts and how to apply them. “It was easy,” he says.

José recently sold the store he owned at Mercado Central, but he continues to use the skills he learned in the Latino Leadership Program, including in his work as a consultant at the University of Minnesota and when he reaches out to community leaders.

José says the leadership program is especially important for people who want to become stronger leaders at work. “We have very good people here, and maybe we need some tools and opportunities to use,” he says. 

I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean you are the one in front all the time. For me to understand that part, it changed everything for me.

Sandra Huge, Latino Leadership Program graduate