Young Latina Leaders Shine at Rising Stars Breakfast
By Alba Romero
Program and Events Intern
As a conference first, NHLI held the Rising Stars Breakfast, sponsored by Aflac, to honor three Latinas under 30 for their leadership and accomplishments.
To celebrate these accomplished leaders, Journalist and New York Times bestselling author of seven novels including The Dirty Girls Social Club and Playing with Boys, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, provided a powerful keynote speech on the "Essence of Time". She spoke about the value of knowing where our ancestors came from and the importance of keeping our culture alive. Alisa brought everyone to their feet in the middle of the breakfast with some Cuban dance steps that made the morning memorable and lively.
With energy and enthusiasm radiating from every breakfast attendee, each honoree gracefully accepted their award as they thanked their family, friends and loved ones for helping them get to where they are now and supporting their work.
L-R: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Idalia Lechuga-Tena, Sindy Benavide, Alicia Rascon and NHLI President, Cristina López.
A proud Honduran immigrant who came to the United States when she was a mere year old, Sindy Benavides, the highest ranking Latina at the Democratic National Committee as the Director of Community Outreach & Voting, was among the honorees. Her immigration experience and the struggles her family endured have shaped who she is today. Inspired by her mother and grandmothers’ teachings, Sindy is certain that nothing is impossible.
“Giving back to the community through public service is an investment in our future,” said Sindy, a 2009 graduate of NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program.
A 2006 NHLI’s Latinas Learning to Lead program alumna, Idalia Lechuga-Tena, has come a long way since graduating from the program. With her parents cheering her on from the audience, Idalia — who has been a part of Albuquerque’s Mayor Martin Chavez’ Administration since 2007— accepted her award and dedicated it to them.
The third honoree remembers looking through teen magazines when she was young and questioning why there weren’t any women who looked like her and her friends. Alicia Rascon is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Latinitas, a digital magazine whose mission is to empower Latina youth through media and technology. “Our stories were not being told, there are so many challenges and experiences that our hermanas go through that need to be shared with the younger generations”, said Alicia who was accompanied by her husband and son.
NHLI recognized the great strides and effort these young women have made to succeed. They have shown leadership in their professions but have especially demonstrated great commitment to their communities. They are wonderful role models for our young Latinas.
Alicia Valdes-Rodriguez’ leadership advice to young Latinas is to “think big. Have a vision of what you want to pursue in life and go for it; don’t take NO for an answer,” she said. “When it comes to leadership, there are going to be positive and negative aspects to these roles that affect all individuals. As Latinas, we must learn to be in charge and not give in to the stereotype that women in leadership roles are bossy, selfish, and/or pushy. Being a leader is a skill everyone uses to survive,” concluded Alisa.
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