Latino Leadership Initiative

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2023 - 2024 LLI Information and Updates
The 2023 - 2024 LLI cohort is being formed and the students are eager to begin! The first group session for the three schools, Edmonds College, Skagit Valley College, and University of Washington Bothell, will begin January 6th with our group Orientation!

For Edmonds College, the program will begin with Orientation on Saturday, January 6th, and the leaders will strive to meet with Edmonds College students beforehand to let them know about the program.

For Skagit Valley College, winter quarter for Latino Leadership Initiative begins 1/13/24. Their focus this quarter will be to begin exploring and planning for the start of their team service projects that will be presented to community members as well as having their classmates interview a Local Leader. They would like to highlight that they have a great team of 15 students of all ages and backgrounds who are passionate about learning skills to better serve our Latino community and who are eager to begin to work on their service project. They just completed Fall quarter where we focused on Latino history, leadership and the understanding of community needs.

The University of Washington Bothell LLI cohort will start the week of January 8th - 12th. In the past UW Bothell has been a proud partner of Bothell High School, mentoring Latinx students and this year our community service project will continue to reflect the combined interest of the cohort for how they want to support the Latinx community. For more information about UW Bothell's Latino Leadership Initiative cohort, click here to visit their webpage!

We are excited to get the students together and begin the 2023 - 2024 Latino Leadership Initiative!
UW/Bothell Shares LLI Experience
The mark of a mentor

By Elisabeth Schnebele

Students in the Latino Leadership Initiative don’t just change their own lives. They also inspire local Latino high school students.

Often, education is taken for granted. It’s not unusual for children and teenagers alike to dread going to class or doing their homework. Some have parents who reinforce the importance of going to school, but not all can or do, depending on their life circumstances.

This discrepancy is particularly evident when looking at U.S. Census percentages of different populations who have college degrees. Among major ethnic groups, Latinx appear to have the weakest rates, with only 33% percent of adults having at least a bachelor’s degree.

“In our Latinx, Hispanic community, I feel like a lot of parents don’t necessarily pay attention to us kids,” said Maria Valentina Palacios, a 2022 University of Washington Bothell alumna who majored in Law, Economics & Public Policy and minored in Human Rights. “It’s not because they don’t want to or don’t care. It is because they are so busy working trying to provide for their family. Many are immigrants and don’t necessarily know how to help or, like I said, have the time to help — and so the kids get overwhelmed and want to drop out.”

Latinos have the highest dropout rate as well as low participation in civic, political and community activities, confirmed Victoria Breckwich Vasquez, affiliate assistant professor and lecturer in UW Bothell’s School of Nursing & Health Studies. “There are many reasons as to why this occurs — lack of role models or mentors, weak organizations and cultural barriers — but an important one is the need for more Latino leaders at all levels.”

The Latino Education & Training Institute, based in Lynnwood, Washington, is working to help people overcome these obstacles — with the assistance of UW Bothell students.

Expanding leadership
LETI was founded by Rosario Reyes, a first-generation immigrant from Peru, as a response to the lack of information and resources available to Latino immigrants. Its mission is to facilitate the personal and financial success of Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants and low-income individuals so they can pursue their dreams and can become leaders in their communities.

In 2013, LETI brought together community leaders and supporters to discuss how they could create a program to energize the Latino community and expand its leadership base in the Greater Seattle area. Representatives from several Puget Sound agencies and organizations joined the effort, and, after multiple brainstorming meetings, the group approved the development of a leadership curriculum for college and university students known as the Latino Leadership Initiative.

UW Bothell joined the LLI as a participating college four years ago, with Vasquez serving as the program supervisor. “It felt that oftentimes Latinx people didn’t have a strong foundation in having enough resources to help their communities,” Vasquez said. “So much of their experience — mine included — is constantly struggling to put their best foot forward and to find resources that they can use for their own professional development.

“This program is an effort to allow students to gain leadership skills and get access to resources and communal support so that they are then able to identify their needs, the needs of their communities and, most importantly, the capability to address those needs.”

At the heart of LLI is mentorship. Once a month, students from all participating colleges come together to meet and network with prominent Latinx dignitaries and professionals.

Shared experiences
“We have had community and civic leaders, politicians, teachers, health care leaders, musicians and artists,” Vasquez said, “People all over the map who come in and speak about how they see leadership in their own lives. And all of them are Latinx identified. So it really is an examination of being able to bring all of that talent to the room.

“For many of these students, they’ve never met people in these positions who are of the same culture, because it’s relatively rare. Seeing these people in person opens up the possibility of what is possible.”

The UW Bothell students aren’t just mentees. Over the course of the two-quarter program, they transition into the role of mentors for local Latinx high school students. “At the crux of the program is civic engagement, as the LLI students participate in a 40-hour internship service-learning project,” Vasquez explained. “The past three years we have partnered with Bothell High School as they have about 14% Latinx students, which is the highest population in the Northshore School District.”

Palacios participated in the program in 2022. Having immigrated to the United States her junior year of high school, she used her experience to relate to and better support these current high school students. “I knew what they were lacking, because I experienced it firsthand,” she said. “When I first started, I didn’t even speak English but was just thrust into classes. But it wasn’t just a new language, it was a new culture, a new everything.”

Above all else, Palacios remembers feeling lost.

“It was the most important year. I had to take the SAT and the ACT. I had to apply for colleges. My parents had never done any of this before either as they just moved to the U.S., too,” she said. “It was really hard and scary.”

Graduation dreams
Wanting to prevent the Latinx Bothell High School students from experiencing all these hardships, Palacio helped the juniors and seniors with their college applications and helped the first-year students and sophomores figure out which classes to enroll in, depending on their interests and goals.

The impact this made on their future was astronomical. “I worked with one student who was seriously considering dropping out of high school,” Palacios said. “I worked with one student who was seriously considering dropping out of high school. He felt really lost, like I did when I was that age. He also felt like his parents didn’t care about him. He didn’t really have anyone to talk to or anyone to listen, so that’s what I did.

“I asked him about his interests, what he liked and what he wanted to do in the future,” she said. “I met with him every week, and he started skipping classes less and less. Now he is about to graduate with his GED.”

Felicity Abeyta, a pre-major academic adviser in UW Bothell’s Student Success Center, has been able to bear witness to the growth and change students undergo while in the program. “These students are trailblazers — both the high-schoolers and the college students,” she said. “It is a beautiful system of generational mentoring where everyone’s experiences and knowledge are benefiting each other.

“Professor Vasquez passes it on to the UW Bothell students who pass it on to the high school students and so on and so forth,” Abeyta said. “It’s a wonderful, community-based format that impacts dozens of students.”

I worked with one student who was seriously considering dropping out of high school. He felt really lost, like I did when I was that age. He also felt like his parents didn’t care about him. He didn’t really have anyone to talk to or anyone to listen, so that’s what I did. I asked him about his interests, what he liked and what he wanted to do in the future. I met with him every week, and he started skipping classes less and less. Now he is about to graduate with his GED.

Maria Valentina Palacios, UW Bothell ’22
Trailblazer impacts
Abeyta said she also feels a personal connection to the program as a Bothell High School graduate and as a UW Bothell alumna (Society, Ethics & Human Behavior ’03) whose mother was a migrant farmworker. Abeyta was proud of her family but felt isolated from her identity and ran away from home at just 14 years old.

“Growing up, I really struggled finding community and people who looked like me. Being an adviser and participating in this program brings me a lot of joy because I can prevent students from experiencing a lot of the things that I went through and can help them develop strong pathways into their dreams,” she said.

“The LLI program achieves my whole dream of helping students — not just of getting them to economic stability but to where they have the foundation that empowers them to go on and be multicultural leaders in their communities and organizations. And then this mentorship and leadership development will come back to the UW Bothell community.

“I highly encourage students to apply for the program,” Abeyta said. “It won’t just change your life. It will change your community.”

(This article first appeared Aug 9, 2023 in the Newsletter of UW Bothell.)

Original article

LLI Program Information
LETI, in partnership with Edmonds College, Skagit Valley College, and the University of Washington Bothell, seeks to train Latino students to be leaders, not only in words but in action.

In the Latino Leadership Initiative program, we hold training seminars where students from those schools can learn to be leaders and complete a community project to demonstrate the power of leadership by action.

Stay Tuned for 2024 information from this website and through the three colleges listed above!

2023 LLI Photos:

LETI's LLI Program Article
University of Washington Bothell's Public Information Specialist, Elisabeth Schnebele, wrote an article about our Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) program. The article contains statements from UW Bothell's LLI advisors, Dr. Victoria Breckwich-Vasquez and Felicity Abeyta, about the intergenerational impact their LLI students have through their mentorship project with Bothell High School students.

Dr. Breckwich-Vasquez is an affiliate assistant professor and lecturer in UW Bothell’s School of Nursing & Health Studies, and Felicity Abeyta is a pre-major academic adviser in UW Bothell’s Student Success Center.

The article also features a testimonial from Maria Valentina Palacios, a 2022 University of Washington Bothell alumna and LLI alumna as well as a paralegal in immigration. Palacios reflected on her own experience with her mentee in which she was proud to see her mentee succeed through her support.

This program is in partnership with Edmonds College, Skagit Valley College, and the University of Washington Bothell where we have seminars and speakers who train Latino students to be leaders, not only in words but in action through community projects each group completes.

Read more about the University of Washington Bothell article here.

Click to learn more about the LLI program.

Photo from the University of Washington Bothell "The mark of a mentor" article.
EPA Invites Youth to Serve on National Environmental Youth Advisory Council
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the agency’s first-ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council (NEYAC). This is to provide advice and recommendations on how to increase EPA’s efforts to address environmental issues and give a perspective on how the impacts of climate change and other environmental harms affect youth communities.

The EPA is looking to fill 16 vacancies on the NEYAC for ages 16 to 29. There is a webinar August 7th and applications are due August 22nd. Please see the EPA website for more information.

Click Here!

2023 LLI Graduation
Congratulations to all the students for their hard work on their projects which were focused on helping strengthen the Latino community with resources and support!

Graduation will be held May 20th at Edmonds College, Woodway Hall Room 202 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm.

Stay tuned for more information about the LLI graduation!
Students, check your emails and please RSVP with the total number of friends/family that will be in attendance.

Click to view the Graduation Program and Agenda

LLI 2023 Student Presentations
Saturday May 13th, we saw groups of students from Edmonds College, Skagit Valley College, and the University of Washington- Bothell present their LLI group project. See the attached agenda below of this event that took place in person at the Skagit Valley College campus.

The Edmonds College group spoke about their Community Online Database with resources in education, health, and behavioral health. Their main goals were to provide resources for mental health and handout information on Snohomish programs to help kids and parents with mental health as well as parents with connecting with kids and finishing schooling. Provide resources to Latino community to identify companies with Spanish speaking services.

The Skagit Valley College group spoke about bringing awareness about mental health and mental illnesses. Provide help and options for how to physically get out and get involved in activities.

The University of Washington- Bothell group shared about how their goals each session depended on what the students were looking for. The group wanted to make sure they were able to help and give crucial information to these high school students, whatever was needed, especially in regards to continuing their education.
LLI Launches Alumni Association
If you are a current or former participant in Latino Leadership Initiative, you are invited to join the LLI Alumni Assn. All former speakers, organizers and staff are also encouraged to join.

We have launched with only current members already enrolled. We will be adding login data and notifying others with whom we are still in touch. If we fail to include you, it may be due to a change in your contact data; feel free to inform us using the Contact link on the About page.

The basic features of the LLI Alumni Assn. are now active. Current students are enrolled; previous students can be added (a few are named but without class years).

Members can
1. Sign into the site.
2. Create Updates (personal messages to the group with optional text, link, image). These echo on the home and Members pages.
3. Send private messages to other members.
4. Participate in the Forums, either by commenting or creating topics.

Qualified or selected members can also be given blog access, with or without prior approval.

The purpose, of course, is future recruitment and support as participants advance in their careers.

During testing & shakeout all is public; we may later put content behind login requirement. We are also not yet distinguishing active membership from alumni status, so some information may appear in both contexts.

Suggestions from active users are welcome.

To sign in, click the link below and look for the <i>Sign In</i> link atop any page.
Mental Health Matters Events
May is Mental Health Awareness month and there are events on May 17th, May 22nd, and May 30th for Mental Health Matters of Washington.

May 17th, there will be a virtual round table on neurodiversity with Dr. Lucas Harrington, a psychologist who was diagnosed with autism later in life. His research and lived experiences will be shared at this virtual session. They will provide both ASL and Spanish translation.

May 22nd: (in person at Skagit Valley College): Nalaxone Training (with English to Spanish translation).

May 30th: Lifesaving Conversations: They are partnering with the UW Forefront Center to provide their LEARN skills training on Zoom. They will also provide ASL and Spanish translation.

Click to view flyers.

Immersion session features Sixta Morel
Sixta Morel, bilingual communicator, former TV host, voice actress, and producer of the podcast Gente, Historias y Emociones, addressed the LLI students on 15 April on the topic of being prepared for public speaking.

Sixta started working in the media business as a teenager, and has had the opportunity to work in front and behind the camera, in different roles, including tv host, Emcee, voice over talent, and acting. Born in the Dominican Republic, and established in Seattle, Sixta works independently as voiceover actress (audiobook narrator, dubbing actress, e-learning presenter, commercial, etc.) and on-camera talent, and as public speaking trainer.

Graduated as radio and TV broadcaster, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and certificates in Cultural Journalism (DR) and Public Relations and Strategic Communications from University of Washington, and a dubbing certification from A Voz academia in Colombia.

As Master of ceremonies, she has hosted several national and international events, including private, corporates, nonprofits and bilingual presentations. Morel is trained in acting; including a summer program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NY.
Leadership program resumes in-person sessions
This week, 15 April will see the resumption of in-person LLI sessions, starting at 10AM at the University of Washington- Bothell. Please see the agenda attached and join our presenters in discussion. This would be a good time to show up.

If you have not registered on the website, there will be no more appropriate opportunity. See Marisol or one of the other team members for instructions. When you join, you can start building your personal profile, add Updates to the members page from your profile and participate in discussion forums. You can also launch topics to share information with your project team members.
2021-2022 LLI Final Project Presentations Agenda
Topic: Edmonds College Group Presentation
Speakers: Maria Guadalupe Villareal, Yustine Saavedra, Liliana Ruiz, Kamilla Rayon, Monica Ortiz, Jazmin Herrera

Topic: University of Washington Bothell Group Presentation
Speakers: Brisa Barajas, Tori Sattefield, Maria Valentina Palacios, Laura Orjuela, Larissa Lima, Luis Gregorio Guerrero

Topic: Skagit Valley College 1st Group Presentation
Speakers: Berenice Macias, Rosa Soria Mondragon, Ricardo Gomez, Marcelina Mendoza, Samantha Guttierez

Topic: Skagit Valley College 2nd Group Presentation
Speakers: Roxana Guzman, Ralph Herrera, Hector Mariscal Medina, Cesar Osornio Ramos

Topic: Evaluators' Feedback on Final Projects
Francisco Pacheco, President, BeTalentful Corporation
Pamela Jackson, Lead Coach and Steward, Encounter Purpose Coaching
Leonor Bejarano, Community Resource Advocate of South Snohomish County Community Information Line, Volunteers of America
Felisa Garcia, Administrative Assistant, Social Studies, Edmonds College

Attend May 14th Session

2021-2022 LLI 3rd Immersion Seminar Agenda
Topic: Multicultural Leadership
Speaker: Dr. Laura Flores Cailloux, Department Chair/Faculty for Sociology & Ethnic Studies, Skagit Valley College

Topic: Expectations for Formal Presentations in a Professional Western Setting
Speaker: Angela Logan, Faculty in Communication Studies, Advisor in Black Student Union, Skagit Valley College

Topic: Careers for the Greater Good
Speaker: Christina Tovar-Hamernik, WorkSource Lynnwood Site Manager, Employment Security Department

Attend March 5th Session

2021-2022 LLI 2nd Immersion Seminar Agenda
Topic: Leadership Stories
Panel Members: Superintendent of Edmonds School District, Dr. Gustavo Balderas, Superintendent of Shoreline School District, Dr. Susana Reyes, and Skagit Valley Councilmember Juan Morales

Topic: Culturally Responsive Practices - Engage in Community
Speaker: Dr. Sally Guzman, Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, Edmonds School District

Topic: Community Project Plan Presentations

Attend February 12th Session

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