“It’s the next generation that will savor what it feels like to have a Hispanic community that is thriving.”
— Claudia Romo Edelman
Maybe it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that a person who feels “caught between two cultures” could experience conflict because of that. Indeed, there has always existed an internal battle waging within me— the battle to be “American enough: to enjoy the privileges that come with identifying as an American citizen, while clinging to my native Puerto Rican culture with every last fiber of my being.
For many like me, it can be an exhausting battle that makes us feel even more isolated from everyone— Latinx or not.
When I was invited to attend the Prospanica 2019 Conference in my town of Orlando, I was thrilled to get to connect with others who, perhaps, share similar struggles to mine.
I noticed almost immediately that I wasn’t alone. There were people who preferred speaking English instead of Spanish, and vice versa, people who have never visited their family’s native country, and people with every different type of accent you can imagine.
With Silfredo Padilla, my longtime friend who supports Hispanic professionals in every way!
But, more importantly, we all shared a common thread— each of us was looking to establish or further our professional careers.
With my very dear friends, Giancarlo Serrato and Sandra Palacios-Serrato, and LaChelle Drayton of UnitedHealth during their opening reception!
From the first evening’s receptions and icebreaker activities to the crash-course on how to use LinkedIn to position yourself as a thought leader, each of the events of this three-day conference was purposeful and intentional with the goal of getting us each out of our comfort zones and allowing us to learn about ourselves in order to improve our personal brands.
LaChelle Drayton of UnitedHealth challenged us from Day One to figure out “Who is wearing your T-Shirt?” It was a key reminder to think about who are your brand’s best ambassadors.
With LeChelle Drayton of UnitedHealth.
Hands-down, one of my favorite moments of the Prospanica conference was the session titled: “Latinas in Leadership: The Challenges and Keys to Success.” The session featured speakers Kristina Williams-Buhl of Edward Jones, Ciléia Miranda-Yuen, Yvonne Martin, Claudia Aulik, and Lupita Colmenero.
Getting to meet and speak with Lupita Colmenero of LATINA Style magazine afterward was one of the true highlights for me! These women are so passionate about sharing their stories to encourage fellow and future entrepreneurs.
With Lupita Colmenero of LATINA Style.
I’d like to share a few takeaways I gleaned from that panel:
- When you have your heart connected to what you do, thank God it’s Monday!
- Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone who can be a mentor.
- Do not disregard the wisdom of people older than you in the industry.
With Kristina Williams-Buhl of Edward Jones.
Prospanica’s Career Fair was one of the best-organized I’ve attended, with top global companies ready to take résumés and conducting job interviews onsite. It was an awesome experience for me to get to share with company representatives what The Laurita Spina Bifida Project is doing across the globe!
The Brillante Awards Gala served as the culminating event for the conference, and it took my breath away!
I loved meeting Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford Public Schools superintendent, winner of the Brillante Award for Educational Excellence, and fellow puertorriqueña! She became a strong advocate for the 450 students from Puerto Rico who arrived at her school district after Hurricane María displaced them.
With Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodríguez, Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.
While the delicious Latin food and stellar Halloween decor genuinely impressed me (I mean, I grew up frequenting Disney’s Haunted Mansion!), it was Claudia Romo Edelman’s keynote that brought tears to my eyes and prompted thunderous applause. I had been wanting to meet her for several years. Her work as a Special Adviser at the United Nations and the We Are All Human Foundation, as well as her work with UNICEF, has served as a great inspiration to me.
Don Orlando welcomed everyone to the gala!
I’ll admit I geeked out when I gave Claudia my card and took a photo with her! I’m continually humbled by moments when I can cross paths with amazing women role models. I am so grateful to Claudia for sharing her story with us about the struggles of being taken seriously as a Latina from early on in her career. Her story resonated with me in a profound way, as a fellow Latina who battles with her duality to be taken seriously as Latinx and as an American citizen.
With Claudia Romo Edelman, Keynote Speaker and Special Adviser at the UN.
This year’s Prospanica Conference was all about “Sin Fronteras” (“Without Barriers”), and about empowering New Leaders and Next Gen Ideas.
With Gabe Zayas of the Prospanica Orlando Chapter board.
With Doris Alcivar of UCF Career Services.
The LinkedIn session I attended emphasized that thought leadership demonstrates expertise, invites collaboration, and collective learning with others. What an honor to be able to learn among such creative, passionate, and forward-thinking minds in many different fields, all with the goal of breaking down barriers for fellow Latinx people. We’ll soldier on, even if it’s the next generation that will get to enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Thank you to my very dear friend Sandra Palacios-Serrato, President of Prospanica Orlando Chapter, and her dynamic board and team for everything!