Sheroes of the Latina Leadership Initiative


By Christina Fernandez-Morrow

Synonyms of HEROIC:
• brave • champion • bold
• courageous • daring • epic
• fearless • gallant • grand
• gutsy • valiant • noble

In light of the news I shared a few weeks ago, the word heroic has been swimming in my head. It’s one of those words that can evoke a plethora of feelings and opinions. What is heroic to one person can be foolish or risky to others. Heroes are often controversial, even fictional ones.


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The word got me thinking of who my heroes have been. As cliche as it sounds, the first people who come to mind are my parents. They were the first to teach me life lessons that still resound in my life, that I try to pass down to the kids in my life. I especially learned selflessness, the value of a strong work ethic, and that family loves beyond flaws, mistakes, failures and heartbreaks.
Over the years various teachers have been my hero. Two are standouts. Ms. Kohler who was the first teacher that made me feel valuable as a student, and that I was important as a person. The second was Mrs. Vargas, my first Latina teacher who believed in me and encouraged me in ways she may never realize. She challenged me, and in wanting to make her proud I pushed myself harder and expected more from myself.
Recently, I was part of the graduation of the third cohort of women from the Latina Leadership Initiative, a local non-profit that focuses on leadership development for Latinas who are just starting their careers. I have been the executive director of the agency since 2012, when it was an idea and a website. The women who have completed the program are phenomenal, and they got the biggest complement I have heard to date, when my daughter, who attended the ceremony, told me that she wants to be like them when she grows up.
Women who aspire to be more, push themselves, set goals and knock them out, and who open themselves up to learning and being mentored are heroes. They are more than role models when they not only do all these things, but support each other as well. That is what sticks out to me most about them, and the women I am privileged to be around. There are countless articles about how women don’t lean in; the rife between stay-at-home vs. working moms; the divide among those who have children and those who choose not to; the opinion that they don’t mentor each other enough. Luckily, that has not been my reality. I have found a community of women who do the opposite.
All the variations of heroic encompass the women who have been my peers, Allies, friends, teachers, supervisors, and friends. It is embodied in my mother, sister, grandmother, sisters-in-law, aunts and cousins. I see it in my daughter, nieces and the daughters of my closest friends. Barriers don’t slow them down, but makes them more resilient. They problem-solve in the face of trials, and instead of keeping others down, they have extended a hand to those who need it, myself included.
I am thankful for sheroes and the courageous women who are there for one another to support and protect. I hope I can be that same support to the women who cross my path.
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