GLBHLI, How It All Began
Hispanics have become the largest minority in the United States. The 2012 US Census counted 54.1 million Hispanics in the United Sates, making up 17.1% of the total population, up from 5% in 1970. The nation’s Hispanic population now stands at over 54.1 million, making them the nation’s second largest racial or ethnic group. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the census found that Latinos are the youngest of the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. At 27 years, the median age of Latinos is a full decade lower than that of the U.S. overall (37 years). Among Latinos, there is a big difference in median age between the U.S.-born (18 years) and foreign-born (40 years). 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, Bay City and Midland Counties, 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.
As a result of the program, graduates have stepped in to roles in their community, position with more responsibility and visibility, and continue to volunteer thousands of hours of service throughout the great lakes bay region.
The Hispanic community recognized that there was 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. It has changed, with the creation of the program, developed for those ages 21-45, that may be under the radar for traditional leadership programs. On January 28, 2016 we will graduate our seventh class of fifteen young Hispanics and we will introduce our new student ambassadors that have been selected to begin their year-long journey.
Dr. Mamie Thorns, Special Assistant to the President of Saginaw Valley State University, worked with Reyes to draft a proposal and white paper to present to the President of the University for approval, and worked diligently with the supported of others like Kim Houston-Philpot and Jeff Martin from The Dow Chemical Company, who gave countless hours to the program throughout the year to assure its success. Once the program was approved at SVSU, the program was designed and operated out of the Office of Continuing Ed & Professional Development.
The program is funded by our main sponsors; including: Saginaw Valley State University, Team One Credit Union, Consumers Energy, Dow Chemical, Nexteer, and Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Business Association. Saginaw Valley State University is always looking for ways to reach out to the community, and the program was a good fit. “Former SVSU President Eric Gilbertson was always supportive of any program that promoted 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. “And now with the new SVSU President Donald Bachand, SVSU continues to support and welcome the program and its mission.
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 Consumers Energy, Dow Chemical, Nexteer, Duperon 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, one of the founding Advisory board members, 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.”