Name: Yaneris M. Rosa
Hometown: Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic and moved to Freeport, New York at age of 10.
CHCI Program(s)/Year: CHCI Internship (Summer 2002), CHCI Scholarship Recipient (2004)
CHCI Program Placement(s): Office of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Current Position/Organization: Assistant General Counsel, Honeywell International Inc.
1. Many CHCI alumni and current program participants have battled and continue to battle common challenges as they strive to become Latino leaders in their communities: living and working in low-income communities, some in single-parent households, as recent immigrants, DREAMERS, or first-generation American citizens. What challenges did you have to face to get to where you are today?
In 1992, my mother and I left our native Dominican Republic in search of a better life in New York. The transition to America was not easy, as we adjusted to a new culture, language, and way of life. My mother, who never received a formal education and spoke limited English, started working as a hotel housekeeper to make ends meet as a single mother. I entered the American school system in an English-as-a-second language (ESL) fifth grade classroom. Being in an ESL class helped with the transition because not only were the other children recent immigrant like myself, but the teacher was also a native Spanish speaker. I will always remember the intimidating day in the sixth grade when I advanced out of my ESL classroom to join my English-speaking peers. Although I was leaving my comfort zone, I realized that not only was I going to be able to fully transition into the United States, but also excel in my new country. As a first generation college student, I overcame monumental adversity on my journey to become an attorney, struggling to surpass racial, socioeconomic and ethnic barriers while pursuing my college and law degrees.
2. What motivated you to apply to the CHCI program(s), and why do you think they are important for Latino youth?
Since I was a little girl growing up in Dominican Republic, I always aspired to become an attorney but my dream was strengthened when I realized that a law degree would give me the necessary tools to fight injustices in our society. I applied for the CHCI summer internship to gain firsthand experience on how laws were made. The CHCI internship was a defining experience because it gave me a larger perspective about how change evolves through legislation and public policy.
The CHCI programs provide invaluable opportunities for Latino youth, especially for first generation college students like me. Through these programs, students learn about themselves, sharpen their leadership skills and more importantly acquire skills to collaborate on a shared mission with other leaders. CHCI also provides an amazing network of Latino leaders and students dedicated to elevating the status of the Latino community and other disenfranchised groups.
3. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?
I am currently the Assistant General Counsel of the Honeywell Security Group, a division of Honeywell International Inc., where I partner with business leaders to further the growth and success of Honeywell’s product line, including assisting and facilitating Honeywell’s expansion of its Total Connect offerings throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. I was selected to become a member of Honeywell’s Legal and Government Relations Diversity Council, an organization that aligns with my commitment to support and actively promote diversity in the legal profession. Honeywell also selected me to represent the company as a 2015 Fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) program, a national organization made up of top general counsel and managing partners, working to build a more open and diverse legal profession. Prior to joining Honeywell, I was the Associate General Counsel of Planet Payment, Inc., a Long Beach, NY based start-up. I worked on a variety of transactions, including the company’s IPO and listing on the NASDAQ in 2012.
I started my career as a Corporate Associate at Simpson Thacher and Bartlett LLP, a position that laid the foundation for my current corporate practice. During my time at the firm, I was also a member of the Advisory Council to the Simpson Thacher Diversity Committee. Furthermore, I managed pro bono matters, including asylum/immigration cases, divorces/family law issues for domestic violence victims. During the 2008 presidential campaign and election, I was blessed with the opportunity to manage the Simpson Thacher Election Protection call center. The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process, through their state of the art hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund) and comprehensive voter protection field programs across the country, providing Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voter information and advice on how they can make sure their vote is counted.
I received my Bachelor of Science in policy analysis and management with concentrations in Latino studies and African diaspora studies from Cornell University and my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.
4. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?
During my CHCI internship, I practiced my leadership skills and made concrete plans for my professional and personal development. My experience on Capitol Hill furthered my interest in public policy and issues that profoundly affect underrepresented constituencies. During my internship program, I also made lifelong friends and professional connections.
5. How do you continue to give back to the community?
I am passionate about educational initiatives, especially those that address inequality in access to education and provide opportunities for children from underprivileged backgrounds. I’ve served on boards of several nonprofit organizations that focus on initiatives to alleviate poverty. I’ve also made it my duty to actively mentor students of color, particularly women. I’ve been blessed with tremendous opportunities and it is my duty to pay it forward.
I am also dedicated to diversifying the legal profession and creating a more open and diverse legal profession. As previously mentioned, I was involved with the Diversity Committee at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and I am currently an active member of the Honeywell Law and Government Diversity and Inclusion council.
6. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years, and what do you still want to achieve?
I am blessed to work at Honeywell, a company that aligns with my commitment to support and actively promote diversity in the legal profession. Honeywell has invested in my career and I see a promising future with the company. I also see myself continuing to use my platform to increase educational opportunities for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
7. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?
1. Be yourself and follow your passion. 2. Dream big and be proactive in creating the life that you want. 3. Don’t be afraid to step out of your box/comfort zone. 4. Take chances!