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New program prepares in-demand Latino professionals to serve on local nonprofit boards

IRVINE, Calif. (Aug. 30, 2023) — The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) has announced the first cohort of 19 graduating Latino business professionals from the Avanzar Board Leadership Academy, developed in partnership with philanthropic consulting firm Adelante Partners. OCCF covered all costs for the three-month training program to arm emerging Latino professionals with the necessary skills to become engaged and effective board members for Orange County’s nonprofit organizations.

Latino professionals are in high demand by local nonprofits wanting to ensure that their boards reflect the Orange County community they serve. A diverse board brings numerous benefits to nonprofit organizations, including a broad knowledge base and differing viewpoints, a more inclusive organizational culture, a more complete view of risk management, and more. The Latino community in Orange County represents a key demographic of emerging leaders and philanthropists that could offer these benefits. Current OCCF Board Member and former Ambassador to the U.N., Gaddi H. Vasquez, OCCF’s SVP of Donor and Community Engagement Cathleen Otero, and various professional panelists were vital to the success of the academy, speaking openly about their experiences and learnings as Latino executives for major organizations across Southern California.

“Experiences throughout my lifetime have proven that all groups of people, including Latinos, must be represented on boards so that nonprofits are equipped with the knowledge and perspectives they need to best deliver on their missions,” said Vasquez. “We thank our colleagues and partners for sharing their knowledge so that we could create a stellar curriculum for the inaugural class of the Avanzar Board Leadership Academy.”

The Avanzar program consisted of 10 in-depth sessions facilitated by Latino professionals who are subject matter experts in each topic area. Sessions covered board governance, nonprofit financials, board culture, fundraising, organizational sustainability, and relationship building. The program also featured panels to understand the dynamics between a board chair, executive directors and personal branding. To conclude the inaugural training, participants engaged in a board prospecting session where they discussed and practiced important questions to keep in mind when looking to join a board.

“We’re grateful to the experienced board leaders and corporate executives who invested their time to mentor the next generation of changemakers in Orange County,” said Otero. “Being a person of color in a leadership position has the potential to present a unique set of challenges, and it’s imperative these rising professionals learn these to provide valuable thought diversity and insight.”

The inaugural class of Avanzar Board Leadership Academy graduates includes Alejandra Garcia (Tesla), Ambrocia Lopez (Elevance Health), Andrea Valenzuela (Kachinga/Lendistry), Claudia Hernandez Magee, Daniel Garcia (A-Z Techs), Dr. Gabriela Castañeda (Chapman University), Eduardo Garcia (Latino Community Foundation), Edward Mendoza (Auto Club of Southern California), Francisco Barajas (Adelante Partners), Israel Serna (Adelante Partners), Jacqueline Franco Acosta (Everblook Solutions), Janice Gordillo (Nkgen Biotech), Laura Chavez (Girls Inc. of Orange County), Luis Cachua (Foodbeast Media), Marisol Ramirez (Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development), Mayra C. Roman Aguilar (Olive Crest), Michelle Larios (Public Law Center), Ruth Cossio-Muñiz (Rancho Santiago Community College District), Stacey España (Simon Scholars Program), William Smith (Gilero) and Yvette Nuñez (First 5 Orange County).

To learn more about the Avanzar Board Leadership Academy, visit

About Orange County Community Foundation
The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) combines giving strategy, community intelligence, enduring relationships, and heartfelt intention to amplify the power of giving and its profound result: greater good in Orange County, and beyond. We serve as a resource for individual and family philanthropists, facilitate grant and scholarship programs, and lead community-based initiatives. We inspire giving and connect people and resources to create sustainable impact, granting $975 million since 1989 in Orange County, across the country, and around the world. For more information, visit or call (949) 553-4202. Be a part of our conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. View OCCF’s 2022 annual report here.


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