A dozen Stanislaus State Warriors are getting hands-on experience in nonprofit organization leadership by participating in the NextGen on Board program, a partnership between the Stanislaus Community Foundation (SCF) and the nonprofit Youth Leadership Institute (YLI).
Ten alumni and two students are among the 27 young adults participating in the first two cohorts of the program, which recruits, trains and places the next generation of diverse leaders on local nonprofit boards. Over the next three years, NextGen on Board organizers say they expect to recruit 40 budding leaders into the program, which is supported financially by SCF Vice Chair Dave Olson and his wife Jeanne, as well as other local donors.
“Stanislaus Community Foundation believes that representation matters, and organizations poised to make impactful change are increasingly led by diverse staff and board members,” said Marian Kaanon, CEO of SCF. “NextGen on Board is focused on adding the richness of experience that many young leaders of color possess.”
The young leaders participating in NextGen on Board are coached and mentored on nonprofit governance, including strategic direction, fiscal management and compliance. They learn how to make change in their community by working on a decision-making board while networking with others and broadening their exposure to career pathways.
The nonprofit organizations that participate in the program gain a deeper perspective on issues impacting young people and the diverse communities they serve. As a result, board members often become more innovative in their approaches to the issues they address.
“NextGen on Board reimagines and ensures that young leaders across our county are influencing change across our dynamic nonprofits,” said Patty Barahona, CEO of YLI. “Youth Leadership Institute is honored to be a trainer and facilitator in the space to unlock and catapult young leaders of color to create the systemic changes we want to see.”
– Naythn Lopez, NextGen on Board participant
For alumnus Rodrigo Ortega, who graduated from Modesto Junior College before transferring to Stan State, the program enables him to pursue his passion while giving back to his community. It placed him with a nonprofit focused on achieving economic justice by equipping people with financial education, life skills and assets that enable them to live free from oppression and poverty.
“I’m interested in financial education and personal finance, and Able Works is just that kind of nonprofit. They have a bunch of programs that speak to me,” said Ortega. “One example is the AchieveAble program, which is aimed at students in community college and supports them as they complete that sensitive part of their educational journey. That speaks to me because I also came up through the community college system.”
Alumnus Naythn Lopez, a community service officer in the Modesto Police Department who is assigned to work with Youth for Christ, said he enjoys having a positive impact on the community while expanding professionally and preparing to lead in the future.
“I hope to network and collaborate with other exceptional young leaders in the cohort and increase my capacity to impact our community significantly,” he said. “Our community needs more young leaders, and this program is a fantastic opportunity to be equipped for a leadership role.”
Alumna Adriana Sanchez said she learned of the NextGen on Board opportunity after graduating from the Latino Leadership Initiative, which focuses on strengthening the Latino community by increasing the number of emerging Latino civic leaders. Sanchez said she is looking forward to learning more about nonprofit leadership and putting the knowledge she gains to good use in the future.
“I want to learn and build upon my ability to make an impact in my local Central Valley community by knowing how to communicate effectively, especially in cross-cultural settings, and enhancing my knowledge of how to lead, not only by the work but by the heart,” she said.
Warriors in the first two cohorts of NextGen on Board are:
Diana Avalos, who earned a master’s degree in public administration from Stan State in 2020 after she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from UC Davis. She is serving a two-year term on the Modesto Children’s Museum Board of Directors. At Stan State, she served as the governmental relations coordinator for Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), led several advocacy campaigns and co-founded Eco Warriors.
Jose Borroel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2020. He is serving a two-year term on the Tuolumne River Trust Board of Directors. He is president of the grassroots nonprofit group Manos Unidas de South Modesto and a project manager for Smarter Cooler Homes.
Kelly Cervantes, a Stan State student majoring in psychology. She is serving a two-year term on the Second Harvest of the Greater Valley Board of Directors. A mother of three children, she has a passion for helping others and hopes to use psychology to improve understanding and communication in the community. After earning a bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration.
Maria Hernandez, who earned a master’s degree in public administration in 2020 and a bachelor’s degree in communications studies in 2015. She is serving a two-year term on the Friends of the Modesto Library Board of Directors. Recent accomplishments include an executive fellowship with the Center for California Studies, which placed her in the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development.
Monica Hernandez, a Stan State student pursuing a master’s degree in psychology who also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Jose State. She is serving a two-year term on the Parent Resource Center Board of Directors. She is a member of Alpha Alpha Alpha, the national honor society for first-generation college students, and works as a mental health counselor trainee at Youth for Christ Central Valley Family Concern Counseling.
Nicole Larson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in criminal legal studies in 2017. She is serving a two-year term on the Gallo Center for the Arts Board of Directors. In 2018, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Turlock City Council. At Stan State, she served two terms as Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president.
Naythn Lopez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in corrections, in 2021 and works for the Modesto Police Department as a public service officer. He is serving a two-year term on the Central Valley Youth for Christ Board of Directors. He also volunteers for Campus Life at local middle schools and is involved with the Latino Leadership Initiative.
Mayra Martinez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2013. She is serving a two-year term on the Stanislaus Community Foundation Board of Directors. She works for a nonprofit agency that provides social, emotional and mental health services for elementary students and helped launch an online community for young adults.
Rodrigo Ortega, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting in 2021 and is working for Service Now as part of a financial planning and analysis rotational program. He is serving a two-year term on the Able Works Board of Directors.
Adriana Sanchez, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in developmental psychology in 2020. She belonged to several honor societies at Stan State including Alpha Alpha Alpha for first-generation college students. She is serving a two-year term on the Sierra Vista Child and Family Services Board of Directors.
Guadalupe Tafolla, who earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 2022. She grew up in south Modesto and has been involved in youth leadership projects and community work. She is serving a two-year term on the West Modesto Community Collaborative Board of Directors.
A’Kia Walker, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in molecular, cellular and microbiology in 2020. A first-generation college student who understands the challenges other first-gen students face, she co-founded a nonprofit organization to help minority youth and young adults map out their futures with the support of a strong network. She is serving a two-year term on the Stanislaus Equity Partners Board of Directors.