NYC Latinx Leaders Share Their Voices

Six influential New Yorkers who overcame cultural, economic and educational barriers on the path to success in business, law, journalism and other fields joined iMentor NYC for an event, “Latinx Leaders Share Their Voices,” in October.

Timed to coincide with Latinx Heritage Month, the event was part of our quarterly Career Explorations Series, in which special guests share their college and career stories with our students, mentors and the wider community. When asked to join the event, each panelist enthusiastically agreed, expressing both a belief in iMentor’s mission and the fact that they wished they had had more role models during their teenage years.

Cindy Rodriguez, award-winning investigative reporter for WNYC, led the discussion with Doralyn De Dios, assistant district attorney and incoming president of the Dominican Bar Association; Janine Ting Jansen, director at S&P Global and president of Prospanica; Paul Ramirez, chief operating officer of Mainland Media and founder of the Bronx Beer Hall; Patricia Reynoso, vice president at The Estee Lauder Companies; and Marcos Torres, managing director of RBC Capital Markets and board director of the Hispanic Federation.

As an investigative reporter, Cindy has not included her personal background in interviews, but on Monday night, her story was very much a part of the discussion. She took a risk to come to New York from Texas despite feeling guilty about leaving her family and not having a clear career path.

“I came from a very sheltered home, and when I started working, I was surrounded by people with Ivy League educations, referring to art I had never seen before, and food I had never eaten,” Cindy said. “I felt very out of place.”

Marcos, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, faced even more formidable barriers. “I am the first in my family to graduate high school and graduate college,” he said. “Growing up poor, I had a dream and learned lessons from my older siblings’ mistakes. I was super focused on being successful and I learned to dream outside of my neighborhood.”

Cindy asked panelists to talk about transformational moments in their lives that helped them forge a path to their current success. Patricia, who has had a long career as an editor in the beauty industry and magazines, shared that a 3rd grade teacher told her she was a good writer. “I never forgot that. She said it, so I figured it must be true,” said Patricia.

When Patricia dropped out of college because of financial challenges, a work colleague made her promise to read The New York Times every day to keep learning. She did. She worked her way up from secretary to editor, brand manager, and now leader in the beauty industry. “I was never afraid to ask for help,” Patricia added.

Janine credits a college counselor for making the difference. “She showed me school, after school, after school,” Janine said. “I wanted to stay close to my family and I ended up at Emmanuel College. Because of college, I worked in Congress, I went to London. I was not going to let people stop me from doing all of this.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Paul shared that for a time he went to a private prep school on scholarship, but didn’t fit in. It took him a full seven-and-a-half years to graduate from college, but he did it. “Even when I was struggling in school,” said Paul, “I was always learning and always growing. I knew that the situation I was in was not permanent. I knew I could change it.”

Now an executive at Mainland Media, a leader on Bronx Community Board 6, and board member of the Bronx Children’s Museum, Paul is helping to build companies and non-profits in the borough. “People who don’t know much about the Bronx think it’s still 1970 and the Bronx is burning,” said Paul. “We are trying to change that.”

Doralyn came straight from the Dominican Republic to attend community college. “I knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “But I started college in the United States and felt I wasn’t smart enough because I didn’t study here.” Her pivotal moment was when she started working on public speaking and learned to project confidence. “Especially for me as a woman, as a Latina,” Doralyn said, “when I go in to court I have to own it.”

Our guest speakers generously shared their personal stories, their challenges and successes, and created a very meaningful event for the iMentor community, especially for our students, many of whom rushed to the front after the panel discussion to have one-on-one conversations, exchange contact information and take photos.

Latinx Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the culture, history and contributions of the Latinx community and here in New York City, these six leaders created an opportunity for learning and inspiration.

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