Yara Alma Bonilla: Independent Consultant
Rodolfo Anthony De Leon: Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, FBI Laboratory
William Ayala (Founding Secretary):Deputy Political-Economic Counselor Guatemala, Department of State
Naomi Barry-Perez: Director of Civil Rights, Department of Labor
Alejandra Ceja: Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Gabriella Gomez: Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional affairs, Department of Education
Miguel Gonzalez (Founding President): Spokesman/Senior Press Officer, National Education Association
Miryam Granthon-Gerdine (Founding Vice President): Analyst at Office of Legislation, HRSA, Department of Health and Human Services
Paloma Santiago-Adorno: Associate, Strategic Insight
1. Why did you feel it was important for CHCI to establish an alumni association?
William Ayala: I felt that it was of extreme value and importance to create an association, or mechanism, to ensure that CHCI fellows stayed connected.
Naomi Barry-Perez: The Alumni Association served to define our commitment to the community; it allowed us to recognize the pioneers who came before us and reach forward to assist subsequent classes of Interns and Fellows. We knew that the impact of our Latino community would flourish, and the Alumni Association reflected the community’s commitment to public service in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country.
Gabriella Gomez: The alumni association grew out of [the desire to provide support and feedback to one another as we navigated the next phase of our careers] and commitment to not only our class but to the spirit and mission of CHCI.
Miguel Gonzalez: We sought to institutionalize the unofficial relationship that already existed between fellows who had graduated from the program and new fellows coming to Washington to take part in the CHCI fellowship…we wanted to tap into this vast network of untapped potential. The alumni association seemed the right vehicle with which to do that.
Paloma Santiago-Adorno: My fellowship had such a profound effect on me that I couldn’t imagine just leaving it all behind after 9 months.
2. How have you been able to benefit from being a member of the association?
Yara Alma-Bonilla: I keep looking at what some of my younger and older peers are doing and it keeps reaffirming the worth of dedicating time to thinking about our people and how to keep contributing to making our people’s lives go better.
Alejandra Ceja: The Alumni Association network has grown in numbers and influence. I have been able to access the network for professional development and also use the network to identify Latino candidates for employment opportunities.
Miguel Gonzalez: We are Hispanic professionals who sit on prominent boards and have achieved leadership positions in our respective careers. From time to time, I tap into this network of professionals for advice about my career and personal life. Personally, I still count as my dear friends many of the alumni I have met since I graduated from the program – I consider many of them close and personal friends. They are my family in my ways.
Miryam Gerdine: [I feel] my affiliation with the CHCI Alumni Association has contributed to my credibility that accompanies my established record of serving our Latino community.
Naomi Barry-Perez: The Alumni Association facilitates our ability to stay connected, to support one another, to form coalitions, and promote the advancement of the Latino community. Being a member of the Alumni Association is like a credential in and of itself!
3. What do you see the association doing in the next ten years?
Alejandra Ceja: In the next ten years, the association will be poised to make key financial investments in the future of CHCIs programs. The next step for the association is to demonstrate its staying power by cultivating its fundraising capacity and ensuring that alumni are also giving back financially.
R. Anthony De Leon: In the coming years, I hope that the newer members continue to use it as a resource to advance in the DC area and beyond. I’m a truly amazed how much the association has already grown and enjoy getting updates about the newer fellows and interns advancing across the country. It makes me proud to have been a part of something so special.
Gabriella Gomez: The greatest benefit of the association is the ability to help tell the story of individuals such as myself, who benefited tremendously from my fellowship experience. The more we are able to tell our story, the more that individuals and organizations will support CHCI because it is in everyone’s interest to support a growing number of Latinos to enter leadership positions.
Miguel Gonzalez: Over the next ten years, I’d like the association to mature into a full grown alumni association resembling a college or university’s alumni association. I’d like the association to become the premier alumni association for Hispanic professionals.
Naomi Barry-Perez: As the number of alumni continue to grow in size, our influence on politics and public policy will also increase. No longer tokens, CHCI alumni will serve in increasingly prominent positions. I believe the Alumni Association will support more alumni in their pursuit of elected and appointed positions in DC and throughout the country.