(Washington, D.C., October 27, 2014)- The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) Regional Future Leaders Conference chaired by Congressman David Valadao was held on October 16, 2014, at California State University, Fresno. The conference centered on the theme, "Explore Your World, Discover Your Future!" and included the participation of experts from the public and private sectors, as well as representatives of Fortune 500 companies. More than 200 high school and college students, young professionals, and community leaders attended the half-day conference and career-networking luncheon.
Dr. Joseph I. Castro, President of California State University, Fresno welcomed students and shared his personal story. He is the first Hispanic president of the university and the first from the Fresno area as well. He emphasized educating tomorrow's leaders as a pillar objective of his administration. "I love these opportunities to both share what we've learned as well as hear the dreams that [students] have, and I fully expect that they're going to do even better than what we have done in this generation," Castro said. "Each generation builds on the previous one."
Dr. Joseph Castro (Fresno State President)
CHLI Board Member, Congressman David Valadao (CA-21) encouraged students to intern to learn about business and public service. He shared his family stories of running a dairy business in the area. "Today is more of a conference for giving positive examples," Valadao said. "My parents are immigrants. We struggled ourselves with language barriers and with a poor upbringing. Now we are pretty successful, and that came from a lot of hard work."
Congressman David Valadao (CA-21), CHLI Board Member & Fresno Regional Conference Chairman
Speakers and members of the audience took part in two panel discussions. Enrique Ruacho, former CHLI alumnus and CEO of ImpACT, and Marcos Gonzalez, Operations Manager at Caglia Demolitions and Recycling, led the first panel, focusing on young leaders and their path to success in a changing global economy. Enrique emphasized internships, while sharing the origins of his start-up. Marcos emphasized the importance of a college education, shared his proficiency in math and described his journey to earning a college degree from CSU, Fresno. He additionally discussed his current career where all his coursework, experience and lessons have taken great shape.
(from left to right) Mark Martinez, California Strawberry Commission; Silvia Aldana, PG&E; Mary Ann Gomez, CHLI; Enrique Ruacho, ImpACT California; & Marcos Gonzalez, Caglia Demolitions and Recycling.
Silvia Aldana, Manager of Federal Affairs for Pacific Gas & Electric; Mark Martinez, Vice President of Public Policy, California Strawberry Commission; and Ruby Valtierra, Univision and President of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, expanded upon the discussion during the second panel, providing conference participants with strategies on how to obtain and maintain a career in business and public service.
They shared their personal stories of success, challenges and lessons learned along the way. Silvia Aldana grew up in Fresno and expressed her joy in returning to campus. She discussed leadership styles and how to help family and friends with different interests. She encouraged participants to follow their personal path and adjust when necessary.
In addition to leadership, Mark Martinez emphasized getting a college degree. He also shared how his work now involves community leaders and elected officials, which has taught him how to deal with people of all backgrounds. He referenced his experience picking strawberries in Central California and how he started a small business, requiring him to search for opportunities in different towns. He also humored students in saying, "Being a leader isn't easy. Remember playing 'follow the leader?' The game isn't 'follow the manager.' May seem easy at times to lead but it isn't. You have to genuinely care about other people."
Ruby Valtierra highlighted different leadership styles and her lessons from mentors while observing others. She noted that she never asks her team to do something she isn't willing to do herself and/or has done before. Ruby has risen to her current position through hard work and taking advantage of initiatives, earning her multiple promotions.
(from left to right) Marcos Gonzalez, Caglia Demolition and Recycling; Ruby Valtierra, Univision/Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Edward Loya, Venable LLP; Silvia Aldana, PG&E; Mark Martinez, California Strawberry Commission; Enrique Ruacho, ImpACT California; Mary Ann Gomez, CHLI; & Gil Lara, JPMorgan & Chase.
At the end of the discussions, conference participants had the opportunity to network with panelists, corporate executives, sponsors and community leaders. Ruacho spoke one-on-one with participants, providing them resources on how to start their own business. Students in attendance received insight as to how they can pursue their professional objectives and discovered upcoming entry-level job opportunities. Participating corporations and agencies in the networking session were: California Strawberry Commission, Central California Chamber of Commerce, CHLI, Congressman David Valadao's District Office, Fresno State Student Body, ImpACT California, National Society of Black Engineers, PG&E, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Since 2007, CHLI Regional Future Leaders Conferences have provided students and young professionals the opportunity to participate in policy briefings, workshops, networking and presentations from local, national, and international leaders in Washington, DC and select cities throughout the country.
Mary Ann Gomez, Executive Director, CHLI, expressed her thoughts on the conference:
It was an honor to be in Fresno with Congressman Valadao and Dr. Castro to encourage today's high school and college students. It is important for them to know that there are many people out there who want to see them succeed. There are also resources and people waiting to help. I reminded them that being of diverse backgrounds, speaking two or more languages and knowing how to navigate different situations are all assets, not liabilities and they need to stand tall and proud of all that they have to offer.
The CHLI Regional Future Leaders Conference was made possible by generous contributions by Ford Motor Company and PG&E. Additional sponsors were Google, Comcast NBCUniversal, Telemundo, State Farm Insurance Companies, Facebook, California Strawberry Commission, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BP America.
CHLI would like to especially thank President Dr. Castro and California State University, Fresno for hosting our Regional Future Leaders Conference.