GLBHLI, How It All Begin
Hispanics have become the largest minority in the United States. Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the nation’s total population. The 2010 US Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United Sates, making up 16.3% of the total population. The nation’s Hispanic population, which was 35.3 million in 2000, grew 46.3% over the decade. Overall, growth in the Hispanic population accounted for most of the nation’s growth–56%–from 2000 to 2010. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the census found that among children ages 17 and younger, there were 17.1 million Latinos, representing 23.1% of this age group, up from 17.1% in 2000. With that, there is no question that participation and inclusion of Hispanics involvement and representation in our community is critical.
In the past five decades, Latino leaders in the Saginaw community have made their mark for different organizations and programs to help our greater community. Yet, in more recent years, concern over the apathy among Latino youth helped propel the creation of the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute (GLBHLI). Through community summit meetings held at Saginaw Valley State University through the College of Business & Management, several barriers were identified as to low college enrollment and low participation of young adults in leadership roles. As a result of those meetings and through the encouragement of the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Business Association and Saginaw Valley State University, discussions began on possible solutions. To help develop a cadre of next generation leaders from and for this community, enter Monica B. Reyes and Larry J. Rodarte, who initially met with the founder of the African-American Leadership Training Institute, Jimmy E. Greene, in April 2008 when two classes of the African-American leadership men had already graduated.
“In a community and state that’s devastated as much as Michigan is, it is imperative that we push new people resources to the forefront,” said Greene, who is CEO and President of the American Builders & Contractors, in Midland, Michigan. “I had always felt that the Hispanic community was absent in the same manner as young Black men were from representation. I only hoped that someone from the Hispanic community would get the same sort of frustration as I had and do something about it. Finally, someone did.”
“The GLBHLI provides the forum for Hispanics to learn, network and collaborate with individuals from all walks of life,” said Reyes, Associate Director of the Center for Business and Economic Development and Director of Continuing Ed & Professional Development at SVSU. Located in Curtiss Hall on the Saginaw Valley State University campus, the institute operates out of the SVSU Office of Continuing Ed & Professional Development. Monica is the Director of the GLBHLI Program and operates the day-to-day operations. This innovative program is designed as a leadership identification program, with the specific goal of developing and fostering our future community leaders.
Rodarte, publisher of Mi Gente magazine, said he saw a huge need for greater Latino leadership because the same few Hispanics were always asked to serve on boards and committees. As the need grew these few were being stretched too thin. “We were often asked from different civic boards in the community, do you know of any Hispanics that would be interested in joining our board?” He added, “From my experience of serving on different boards, there is a great divide in familiarity with our Latino community. Their presence is usually the one-token Latino or none at all. And this needs to change.” Rodarte is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the program. It has changed, with the creation of the program, developed for those ages 21-40 that may be under the radar for traditional leadership programs. In 2010, eleven “ambassadors” completed the program, in January 2011 we had sixteen graduate and in 2012, twelve ambassadors will graduate as the fourth cohort of new Ambassadors are selected to begin their year long journey.
Reyes and Rodarte are both members of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Hispanic Business Association (GLBRHBA) and developed the program with input from Greene. They’ve also recruited others, such as Mamie Thorns from Saginaw Valley State University who worked diligently and supported the program from the start and Kim Houston-Philpot of the Dow Corning Corporation and Jeff Martin from The Dow Chemical Company, who gave countless hours to the program throughout the year to assure its success.
Saginaw Valley State University is always looking for ways to reach out to the community, and the program was a good fit. “President Eric Gilbertson is always supportive of any program that promotes diversity at the university, and Mamie Thorns, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity Programs, stepped in to lend a hand in the development of the institute and continues to contribute as a trainer and serve on the steering committee,” Reyes said.
When the ambassadors meet once a month, they focus on such themes as identifying strengths and talents, community service, networking, team management, collaboration, career and educational planning and a host of topics that contribute to the “best practices” in leadership development. They are exposed to different professionals and corporations, like Dow Corning, Dow Chemical, Nexteer, Hemlock Semiconductor and local Hispanic small businesses.
Each year, the Ambassadors put in more than eighty leadership-training hours, eight seminar hours and hundreds of volunteer hours in the region demonstrating their commitment to the community. Many of the graduates now serve on the boards of directors for different organizations, but more importantly they have learned lessons in collaboration, teamwork, and commitment and for that the Great Lakes Bay Region as a whole will benefit from the graduates leadership skills. “We expect to see great things from this group,” stated Monica Reyes.
Kimberly Houston-Philpot, Retired Diversity, and Compliance Officer at Dow Corning defined the leadership institute goal nicely, saying it “reflects increased diversity and inclusion in the region’s development of leaders.” She added, “The ambassadors are talented and dynamic; we expect they’ll broaden the conversation on cultural thinking and will also reflect a ‘younger generational’ voice toward sustainable regional growth.”
Funding for the long term sustainability of this new program is key to its success. Individuals who care deeply about the Hispanic community and the emergence of its next generation leaders will comprise the group of funders. Pledges to support the program over the years would be formally acknowledged on the GLBHLI marketing publications as sponsors.
Program Fund Sponsors have included: Saginaw Valley State University, Dow Corning Corporation, Dow Chemical Company and the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Business Association, Team On Credit Union and most recently Consumers Energy.