LatinasAchieve Mentor Spotlight
Latinas Achieve! [LA]:
What is your current role?
Michele Leal [ML]: Communications & Public Affairs Consultant with a specialization in Diversity & Inclusion Consulting.
Tell us about your experience as a Latinas Achieve! Mentor.
ML: I’ve been involved with Latinas Achieve for a couple years and am currently a mentor. I’ve loved participating in the program because it’s given me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful young women, learn their stories and struggles and take that as inspiration to work harder to serve my community and hopefully impact some of the policies that have put unnecessary obstacles in their way.
What has been your greatest inspiration in your work?
ML: I think that in all of my work, I’ve always tried to center my goals around community service. That’s been the thing that drives me and pushes me, because that’s so ingrained in my family culture and upbringing. When my grandfather came to the US from Mexico he was about 14 years old and he came alone, as a refugee of the Mexican Revolution, and the only reason he didn’t die of dehydration on a ranch in South Texas is because of the kindness of strangers. And throughout his journey from Mexico to South Texas to San Antonio and, ultimately, Houston where he became a very successful entrepreneur and small business owner, he was helped by others who were in a position to offer assistance and so he continued to pay it forward and help others, especially many other Mexican immigrants who came to the US seeking work & opportunity for a better quality of life. Service to others is a value he shared with his children and my father taught me and when I meet the women in Latinas Achieve, many who are DACA or undocumented, their stories remind me of my own family and they give me hope about what is possible when we help each other, when we lift each other up as Latinos, as immigrants and as descendants of immigrants.
How have you sought to help your community through your work?
ML: I’ve tried to use my skills & expertise to uplift my community wherever I can. For many years, I worked in the nonprofit sector in Houston where I had an opportunity to contribute to organizations that serve vulnerable, historically oppressed communities. I also worked in the Texas Legislature and I’ve used that experience and my political expertise to advocate for policy that will better support the hardworking Latino families that are such an important part of our society. I also think it’s really important for women, especially Latinas, to use their skills & expertise to serve as volunteers, community leaders and board members. There aren’t enough Latina voices at the table. Anywhere. And so I’ve tried to both serve in those roles and give voice to the Latino community that is so underrepresented and also to help mentor and prepare other Latinas to do the same so that they feel empowered to take their rightful seats at the table and become heard. Leadership development is so important and it’s why I feel so strongly about supporting a program like Latinas Achieve.
What role do you see the next generation of Latinas playing in your profession?
ML: I think the next generation of Latinas are going to do incredible things. I’m not sure they realize the power that they have, in that they really are going to be the future of not just the Latino community and not just our region, but they are going to shape the future of our country. I want them to recognize that power, to know what a privilege it is, and to harness it to take on leadership roles and make policies that celebrate, serve and support Latina women and families.