Lisa Carreño of 10,000 Degrees Sonoma County wins Latino Business Leadership Award

Lisa Carreño of 10,000 Degrees of Sonoma County has won one of this year's North Bay Business Journal's Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Tell us your story and that of your organization:

I grew up in Tampa, Florida, the great granddaughter of Cuban and Sicilian immigrants. My parents, Rita and Gale Carreño, sent me to Catholic schools there knowing that our educations were their best investments. Witnessing prejudice and learning about the civil rights movement while attending weekly masses during school inspired my passion for social justice. I knew by the seventh grade I wanted to be a lawyer and politically active when I grew up. While I enjoyed my years practicing law, I have always found my professional passion in community building, public advocacy, and creating access to resources that empower children and adults to fulfill their potential. This is certainly true of my work with 10,000 Degrees.

The San Francisco North Bay's leading college success nonprofit, 10,000 Degrees helps students from low-income backgrounds get to and through college. 10,000 Degrees supports students in 19 area high schools, 10 community colleges, and over 50 4-year colleges and universities in the North Bay and beyond. 100 percent of 10,000 Degrees students come from low-income backgrounds, and 85 percent are the first in their families to go to college. Thanks to comprehensive personal support, academic counseling, and financial aid management, 86 percent of 10,000 Degrees 4-year college students earn bachelor's degrees, compared to 31 percent nationally. 10,000 Degrees community college students transfer to and graduate from four-year colleges at almost three times the national average.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:

Just rode 150-plus miles over six days along the Tuscan coast and its wine country.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?:

Although I am pretty proud of shifting career gears a decade ago and passing the California Bar exam after being out of law school for 18 years, I am proudest of my 26 year relationship with my wife, Lorene. We met when we were both directing Commissions on the Status of Women and commuted cross-country for a year until I relocated from Maryland to Sonoma County in 1992. We were among the 18,000 who married in 2008 prior to the passage of Prop

What is your biggest challenge today?:

My biggest challenge is remembering to have the courage to fully be myself, and stay true to myself in any given moment.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:

Self-doubt has always been my biggest challenge, which is why having the courage to fully be myself and stay true to myself in any given moment is so important. In recent years, I have learned more and more about the importance of listening to the voice inside of me, understanding that this voice is divinely-inspired. It helps me to move beyond my fears, ask for help and find the resources I need to learn, grow and succeed.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:

In college access and education, technology will continue to change how we reach and connect with students and supporters alike, and we'll need to be smart about how we apply that technology, learn from it, and adapt to what we're learning so that we are always improving our approaches as well as our impact. Still, building authentic relationships that truly engage people will continue to depend on building trust and a sense of belonging to our mission and vision. This will remain very personal.

Who was your most important mentor?:

My most important mentor has been my uncle and godfather, Ralph Aguera. He has been in the wine and spirits industry for more than 55 years, always in trade relations. Ralph has not only taught me about the leadership of service and hospitality, he was probably my first leadership coach. “Ain't no hill for a stepper,” early advice he gave me when I was still in college, quietly but persistently lingers in the back of mind and reasserts its wisdom whenever I feel especially troubled or challenged.

Tell us about your community involvement:

I chair the board for Forget Me Not Farm Children's Services and serve on the boards for the Sonoma County Fair & Events Center, Los Cien Sonoma County, and Community Foundation Sonoma County as well as the Sonoma County LGBTQI Giving Circle Steering Committee, St. Joseph Health Sonoma Community Benefit Committee, Sonoma County Health Action Partnership Council, Petaluma Health Care District CHIPA Cradle to Career Committee, Sonoma County Secure Families Fund, and Congressman Mike Thompson's Immigration Advisory Group.

What advice would you give to a young person today?:

Listen deeply to and trust that quiet voice inside of you. The better you listen, the more you'll understand that this is your divine-inspired wisdom guiding you toward being more of who you are fully meant to be.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Melinda Gates

Current reading: “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Most want to meet: Pope Francis

Stress relievers: Journaling, meditation and prayer, talking things through with my wife and close friends, cooking, a walk in the woods or on the beach

Favorite hobbies: Cooking, gardening, cycling, and I'm just getting into mosaic arts.

Is there something we didn't ask that you would like to add?:

I believe this is the secret to my success. We live in a time and a community that provides all of us with the chance to observe the need for change, and build community around that transformation. All one needs to do is establish the intention and step into the leadership void to create that change. I may not know what comes next, but I believe that the Universe is kind, and all the resources needed to create that change will come just when they are needed.

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