Wanda Tapia of Windsor-based Latino Service Providers has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
In 2009 I retired as Assistant Interim County Director of the University of California Cooperative Extension after 29 years. I worked in the Family, Nutrition & Consumer Sciences, Horticulture, and Youth Development Departments as well as conducting statewide facilitation and evaluation. I taught nutrition education, parenting and backyard composting classes to underserved youth and adults as well as chairing the premier annual fundraiser entitled “The Chickenque”. I learned at the University to convene the community around important issues and once established, moving on to another issue. This was a very satisfying and rewarding time for me.
Concurrently, beginning in 1989 a grassroots group of Latino leaders, including Algeo Casul, Linda Garcia, Pat Novella and myself formed the Latino Service Providers. Our aim was to connect the underserved, underrepresented Latino community to resources and social service programs that would strengthen and stabilize their household, resulting in a healthier community. Today I am proud to say that Latino Service Providers is 1400 members strong and in its 28th year of serving our members and the community at large by providing community engagement opportunities and increasing the bilingual workforce. More specifically, by conducting youth programs directed at K-12, implementing a 5-year Testimonios Project utilizing high school and early college students to deliver mental health messaging using traditional cultural practices. We are proud to serve as a Fiscal Agent to five grass roots organizations.
What’s a major accomplishment in the past year?:
Working with a local high school student intern, Kyle Duchynski, LSP developed youth programming to reach underserved K-12 youth. Programs are “Submit a Project,” “Student of the Quarter” and “Art &Writing Showcase,” all aimed at reducing mental health stigma, promoting community engagement, and providing a venue for self expression and healing using recognition, art and writing and involvement.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?:
I am very proud of being a part of building a widely-recognized “go to” trusted 501(c)3 nonprofit organization for the Latino community and those wishing to ‘outreach’ to the Latino community making over 50,000 impressions via our e-newsletter, social media, and community awareness involvement.
What is your biggest challenge today?:
As executive director of LSP, there is always more work to do, our community is more diverse than ever, we must incorporate meaningful up-to-date information and materials to those we serve. With inherent changes in nonprofits, it is a challenge to stay on ‘on the edge’ of what is happening.
Words that best describe you: Connected, informed, knowledgeable, risk-taker.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:
Being the only Latina in the room added pressure because I do not claim to speak for the many diverse Latino cultures in our area. I learned to say that at the beginning of my answers. In response, I strive to educate and empower others to become leaders and represent their family, friends, and community. Their voice counts! Our boards and committees would benefit to have a critical mass of diverse members
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:
As the Latino community grows, so do the issues related to this growth, such as our aging population, elementary school numbers, health, need for bilingual mental health and primary health providers, and housing. As these issues become more and more relevant, our programs will need to match those needs. Latino Service Providers is primed to expand and grow to meet these needs.
Who was your most important mentor?:
Besides my mother, my mentor has been Linda Garcia. She taught me to be self confident, that it was okay to have fear but do it anyway, she opened many doors for personal and professional growth and supported me with my then young family and my now own issues. She is someone who taught me perseverance, organization, and belief in myself. I will be forever grateful.
Tell us about your community involvement:
In my career I have easily sat on over 25 Boards, Committees or Advisory groups. Currently, I am a Board Director for the Sonoma County Fair & Exposition; Small Business Resource Network committee; LBC Latino Advisory Council; Dental Health Network’s Leadership & Sustainability committee and others. Past involvement includes: Community Foundation; Sutter Health; YWCA, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, and past president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
What advice would you give to a young person today?:
For youth in general and Latinos specifically: It is a great time to be young and to be Latino. Establish and follow your goals; and know that you are the only one that gets in your way. Find a mentor and believe in yourself. You can do it! Si se puede! Your community needs you, find ways to become involved and make a difference. You will reap many benefits in return.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Rachel Guerrero, retired Chief of the Office of Multicultural Services. She has been an activist for reducing mental health stigma, supporting small grassroots and nonprofits to excel, is an expert in all aspects of diversity; I respect her accomplishments and her life
Current reading: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Most want to meet: The Dalai Lama
Stress-relievers: Reading, exercise, enjoying a good meal with my husband
Favorite hobbies: Traveling and learning about other cultures, reading, attending classic car shows, and shining up my brand new to me 1973 Ford Mustang convertible
Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?:
Thank you for this honor. It is a privilege to serve my community. You can support LSP by attending our second annual Fandango Fundraiser on Nov. 4 at the Friedman Center, celebrating 28 years of service to the Latino community.