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LATINA networking by Latinas   

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Newspaper

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin broke many glass barriers during U.S. Campaign 2008 but the constant spotlight on their wardrobe and sense of fashion emphasized that women in leadership face some unique challenges—their dress, hair, makeup, demeanor, and even voice pitch can win people over or immediately turn them off.

And ethnic women such as Latinas can add another notch against them in their ladder of success. But LATINA, a volunteer group started about 5 years ago, can enhance this developmental process for the professional woman.


LATINA (Leading & Advocating Together In New Arenas) was created by inspirational women who saw the need for Latinas to meet, network, and educate each other in the Cleveland area—inspirational Latinas such as: Lorraine Vega, Magda Gómez, Miriam Lugo, and Diana Centeno.


With this goal in mind, this fall, LATINA sponsored two workshops entitled “Promoting Professional & Personal Presence”—one on Oct. 24, 2008 at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation House and one on Nov. 5, 2008 at the Cleveland State University Fenn Ballroom.

Panelist for the Oct. 24 forum included: Melissa Cárdenas (Ohio Board of Regents), Dr. Wanda Colόn-Mollfulleda (Social Security Administration), and Patty Quiñόnez (CRPC, Ameriprise Financial Services), with The Plain Dealer’s Susan Ruiz-Patton as the Mistress of Ceremony. [One of LATINA’s student participants—Cadia Wiley—can be found on page 6 in the Nov. 7, 2008 issue of La Prensa; visit: http://www.laprensa1.com/Stories/2008/110708/Cadia.htm

The latter forum, also sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Cleveland State University, featured successful professional Latinas—including panelist Sonia Troche—who shared their personal experiences, expertise in financial planning, ethics, communication, marketing, personal development, and leadership.


Adelante’s Sonia Troche
Sonia Troche
radiates confidence, commands attention, and immediately establishes rapport. As the Executive Director of Adelante Inc. in Toledo, she interacts with CEO and top leadership of many Fortune 500 Companies, but her self confidence is tested often in Corporate America.


“I walk into a meeting for the first time and am immediately greeted with suspicion; is she a  secretary here to take notes?” the Puerto Rican native told almost 80 Latinas.


Troche said women of minority have to break out of the stereotypical molds enforced by mainstream media through icons like Jennifer López. “Leave the heavy makeup, bright and flashy colors for a night at the club,” advises Troche. Instead, do your research, be well prepared, and “Speak up!”

Sonia Troche

Troche encouraged incorporating Latino/a flavor but said it is important to be taken seriously, by presenting a strong professional demeanor.

Alma Sapia-Alfonzo
Panelist Alma Sapia-Alfonzo, founder and president of Lelolai Bakery and Café, informed the group that “Latina women have to work twice as hard.” She emphasized success begins by looking within, establishing personal values, and being true to oneself.


“The number one rule is to ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’” said Sapia-Alfonzo. “Self awareness,” says Alfonzo, “allows people to negotiate from a position of power, and keeps emotions in control. Everything is negotiable, it is basically motivating people to do what you want them to do,” she concluded.


She concluded that Latinas need to work on their instincts, keep the passion for learning alive, and continue to challenge yourself and others.


Panelist Troche agreed and encouraged Latinas to take leadership positions, lift others along with them, and “leave when you are no longer being challenged,” she said.


Judith Lozada-DeCrane
Panelist Judith Lozada-DeCrane, cofounder of Live, Love & Leas LLC (a consulting firm specializing in intergenerational leadership programs), added “sincerity” and “empathy” are also important traits. “First seek to understand, and then be understood,” she said. 


Lozada-DeCrane reminded the audience that communication depends 90 percent on nonverbal which includes personal presentation and enthusiasm. “Be passionate; being Latina gets you half way there,” she said.


Lozada-DeCrane said a person’s credentials are a reflection of who they are and should be built upon carefully. “Never be someone you are not,” she stressed. Another thing to keep in mind: “Be brief, to the point, so plan ahead; people will like you or dislike you based on the first 5 minutes of meeting you,” she said.


First impressions last a long time said Mistress of Ceremony Elisa Amigo, Fox 8 reporter. Amigo encouraged the audience to foster lasting relationships by keeping in touch after the initial meeting, seeking mentors and guiding others. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” she said.


A simple Thank You note or email goes a long way, concluded Amigo.  


Esperanza students partake in LATINA workshops

Esperanza students diligently took notes and soaked in information from the panelists and mistress of ceremony. “It was wonderful, I learned a lot, especially be true to yourself,” said Kanishka Rodríquez, a freshman at Garrett Morgan School of Science. She values her mother’s leadership and views her as a role model for always providing for her daughters.


Rodríquez’s Esperanza peers, Jennifer Mercado and Kiara Burgos, opened the symposium with an uplifting song they composed together. Their message was to forgive and forget past grievances and look forward to new opportunities and make the most of them. The high school students have a knack for becoming famous singers but their professional goals are to pursue careers in forensic science.


LATINA raffled 15 door-prizes for those in attendance, which included products donated by Mary Kay Inc., gift baskets, and books donated by Key Bank. One raffled book, Women of the Vine Cellars, was specially delivered for LATINA and autographed by author Deborah Brenner.    


According to LATINA organizers, 2009 programs may focus on Health & Fitness and a social wine event, but this is still in the organizational stage.  


For more information on LATINA visit: http://www.esperanzainc.org/latina.html


LATINA Committee Members include:
Planning Committee: Carmen Iris Alvarado, Dianna Denteno-Gómez, Carmen Everett-DeHaan, Magda Gómez, Patty Quiñónez, Yanira Santini, and Lorraine Vega.
Event Planning Sub Committee include: Nebeska Aviles, Claudia Lissette Guerrero-Pagán MD, Cynthia Llanos, Stephanie Morales, Vanessa Rivera, and Jamie Vega.

In the group photo includes all of the above and in the First Row of the photo are: Elisa Amigo, Kiara Burgos, Jennifer Mercado, Alma Sapia-Alfonzo, Sonia Troche, Judith Lozada DeCrane









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