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Leadership forum targets young Latinos

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Developing the next generation of leaders is crucial to the success of our communities. This is especially true of the Latinos in our area who represent a significant percent of our population and yet have not stepped up into leadership roles yet in proportional numbers. 

That's the perspective or Jesus Hernandez, a school board member in Wenatchee who has pioneered a route to influence by stepping up and serving in public office. He's part of a group of Latino leaders who have been active in service clubs, civic activities like United Way. "With our greater numbers comes a greater responsibility or obligation to contriute in civic service — it's what makes a community work," said Hernandez. 

Hernandez is now on a mission to grow a new generation of leaders. To that end, he and his wife Melissa have been mentoring and encouraging young Latino leaders through an organization called the Emerging Leaders Alliance (ELA).  While he admits that it's frustrating that others have been slow to get engaged, Hernandez has made the choice to do something about the problem rather than sitting back and complaining about the way things are. I find this level of personal commitment to be inspiring. 

The Emerging Leaders Alliance meets regularly to explore community topics and look for opportunities to build greater awareness about issues and also discuss how individuals can make a difference.

On Friday, ELA is partnering with the Latino Advocacy and Leadership Institute in sponsoring a civic leadership development forum at the Wenatchee School District office. Participants inclue Phyllis Gutierrrez-Kenney, a former state representative, KCTS producer Enrique Cerna and Cathy Allen, president of The Connections Group. From 1-4 p.m., they're going to be having discussions with ELA about how to plug into important issues in the community. 

We have talented individuals in North Central Washington, particularly among our younger set, who could make significant contributions to building stronger communities. That requires younger leaders step up and and existing leaders step back and make room for these talented newcomers. 

Hernandez freely acknowledges that Latinos have been reticent to step up into leadership roles. He doesn't want to be the only Latino elected leader in the greater Wenatchee Valley and is eager for others to participate.  Civic engagement is crucial for developing and growing an effective democracy and contributions need to come from all sectors of our society. We'll be stronger to the extent that more people are engaged. 

If you would like to see my interview with Hernandez, please log onto and click on videos.