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La Liga de Las Americas

LATINA explores leadership

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent


Cleveland: Leading and Advocating Together In New Arenas (LATINA) held its fourth networking luncheon at MetroHealth Medical Center’s Scott Auditorium on May16, 2007.


LATINA’s vision is to become a leading group through implementing an effective network to enhance person and professional performance, highlighting traditional values, and celebrating Latina culture and language.


LATINA accomplishes this vision by hosting forums in partnership with various local organizations. This forum explored leadership qualities and responsibilities.

 Maria Alfaro Lopez

“Leadership is looking at mistakes as an opportunity to learn something,” said María Alfaro-López, general counsel/secretary to the board at John Carroll University. She is the first Latina to ever hold the position of principal attorney for Wayne County, Michigan. She said self reflection and understanding is an important part of being an efficient leader.


For Jenice Contreras, Director of Development with Care Alliance Health Center, leadership is inspiring and helping a future generation of leaders to make a greater contribution. “I can not call myself a leader unless I am helping others and creating a path for someone else to be better than I am,” she said.


Contreras said Latino leaders need to be more visible in the community so they can educate people about the abundance of resources available to them. Contreras said she struggled to find a mentor and she encouraged everyone to make an effort to find mentees and help them build a strong network. “We are not the first ones who are going down this road; someone before us has done it before and we need to share the wisdom,” she said.


Jenice Contreras

Carolina Leid, WEWS News Channel 5 reporter, is sharing her broadcasting expertise with aspiring journalists who reach out to her for advice. She arrived in Cleveland last year and says there are always strengths in number. “We tend to divide ourselves with our difference.” She stressed finding common ground is essential for the general improvement of our society. 

The panelists stressed the importance of networking. “I initially didn’t like the idea of having to suck up to people just to get a job, but the whole idea is to get to know the other person,” said Leid. Contreras said it is often nerve-racking to walk into a group of elderly white males, “but you have to step out of your comfort zones and take initiative.”


Alfaro-López agreed and added that minorities have a tremendous advantage because there is a higher understanding and appreciation for cultural norms and the ability to adapt to differences.

Frances G. Alfonzo-Sapia
, an eight grade student from St. Richard’s Catholic School of North Olmsted, delivered an inspirational speech on what she believes is a leader. She said too many people live their lives in fear, dwelling on the negative, ignoring opportunities and the joys of life.


Alfonzo-Sapia’s advice is simple—live in the present moment, open your eyes, and stand up for what is right. Alfaro-López commended Alfonzo-Sapia for her wisdom.


John F. Sideras, President and Chief Executive Officer of MetroHealth Systems, welcomed the partnership with LATINA, saying the hospital is taking important steps in fulfilling the needs of minority patients.


“You are among friends and we would like to help you advocate, build a network, and assist in providing health clinics,” he said.








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