Aleah Rosario is the Director of Capacity Building Programs at the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC), where she supports professionals and organizations in providing quality and affordable out-of-school time programs. She has also served CalSAC as an endorsed trainer, project leader, and chapter leader, and she is a graduate of CalSAC’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) for Emerging Leaders of Color.
The mission of LDI is to equip emerging leaders of color in the early education and out-of-school time field with the training and experience they need to advance into higher leadership positions within their organization. This field includes educational programs like expanded learning, after-school programs, child care, early learning programs, and summer programs. LDI hopes to create more responsive programs, policies, and services that reflect the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the young people who attend these programs.
Established in 2012, LDI specifically works to support and strengthen leadership capacity and opportunities for people of color in order to address the stark disparity in racial and ethnic representation at executive levels in their field and the greater social sector. “We see, across the nonprofit field of the United States, there is a leadership gap,” shares Rosario. “I can count, often times on one hand, the number of people in these positions that are people of color. Only 16% of nonprofit executive leadership positions are held by people of color and only 14% of nonprofit boards are made up of people of color.”
Rosario and her colleagues at CalSAC know firsthand the value and benefits of diversifying leadership to better reflect, connect with, and support communities and constituencies. “We know that the folks who are most likely to be recipients of these services are mostly people of color,” explained Rosario. “Here’s our huge opportunity – diversify the field and leadership within these programs. The people who are working in these programs, serving the children and families who attend these programs, often times represent the students. They all live and work in the same community.”
LDI hopes to empower its graduates to diversify the broader workforce and both support and inspire younger generations with leaders who look like them and share similar backgrounds and experiences. “[As leaders] we’re making decisions that really impact the resources of their program, the policies that impact how their programs are run,” said Rosario. “If we’re not seeing the representation of the people that we’re serving in these decision-making processes…are we really serving the young people in the ways they need to be served?”
CalSAC worked closely with LeaderSpring to create the curriculum for the multifaceted program LDI provides. A key component of the program’s training helps participants understand the larger systemic forces behind the racial and economic inequities. “We can’t create these trainings and opportunities in a vacuum; we need to collaborate and understand how they [power and oppression] play out in people’s lives and working experiences,” explained Rosario. “In order to combat the discrimination gap and challenge our current systems, we must understand power, privilege, and oppression. This is just as important as understanding the difficult leadership and management skills they are learning at LDI.”
As an alumna of LDI’s inaugural cohort, Rosario shared that a huge part of the program’s success is that it understands and accepts each participant’s own experiences as people of color, which in turn prove highly beneficial in their work with constituents. “We were people who needed and attended these programs growing up, so we can often times have a greater effect on those were serving. We’ve been here before. We know what has held us back from reaching the higher-up leadership positions.”
Throughout the year-long fellowship, fellows are encouraged to believe in themselves and to recognize that they already have untapped skills and rich life experiences that can support their work in leadership positions. “For many it may have actually started by having a family or overcoming a challenge that came their way, and having to adapt and step up to the plate,” shared Rosario. They are trained and led through many scenarios, including the process of negotiating salary increases and their next upward career move. In these and other ways, the program allows for fellows who are feeling burnout to recommit themselves to their work in the social sector, often at a higher level that they might not have known or believed they could reach.
“A previous LDI fellow, who before starting the fellowship was on the verge of leaving the field completely, created new connections that provided a sense of re-commitment, belief, and community through networking, support, and peer-to-peer coaching,” shared Rosario. “After the fellowship, they actually applied for and earned a promotion within their organization. This promotion led to a position on the organization’s executive team and now they even sit on various larger leadership committees.”
This unique leadership development program would not be made possible without the aid of numerous supporters, many of whom are fellow LDI alumni who affirm their strong belief in the program by contributing to it and ultimately sustaining it. As funding in this and so many nonprofit areas can be difficult to secure, CalSAC appreciates any type of support and financial investment as it strives to empower people of color to advance their work and roles within their organizations and communities.
For more information and to view various professional development resources for the early education and out-of-school time field, visit the CalSAC website. For those interested in applying to join the 2018 LDI cohort, applications will be accepted starting in fall 2017 and the fellowship will begin in January 2018.