Gloria Jimenez, 37, is a native of Peru who came to the U.S. when she was 17. “I came here,” she said, “as many immigrants do, just to work.”
But finding her way wasn’t always easy. She started in manufacturing in Los Angeles and then made her way to Indianapolis, where she said she found a community willing to help her meet people and establish a life and purpose.
Now, Jimenez is executive director of the Indiana Latino Expo, an organization that tries to provide the same help and connections to other immigrants and people of Latin origin.
Four years ago, the group created the Axis Leadership, an eight-month program to help train and mentor Latino professionals from 21 to 28 years old. The group just announced its fourth cohort, a class of 25 that includes participants from, among other places, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Jimenez, who is also a multicultural contributor at WISH-TV Channel 8 and a host on Telemundo, talked to IBJ about the program.
Why is this program important?
We have around 120,000 Hispanics in Indianapolis. And, as you know, the population keeps growing. And we know that there are language barriers and that a lot of Hispanics and Latinos don’t understand the system here in the United States—the education system, the health system, how it works when you move to a new country.
And there are a lot of leadership programs out there, but there wasn’t one for Latinos. We can go through other programs, but we have different challenges. … So, we created the program.
How do you choose the people? What do you look for in choosing the class?
We open up nominations or applications for Axis during Hispanic Heritage Month … and we receive normally between 50 and 60 applications. We review their resumes and they write an essay about why they want to participate in Axis and how they are going to engage with the community.
So, we have a steering committee that is me and [Ruth Morales, Yecenia Tostado, Guadalupe Pimentel Solano, Angela Brito de Rodriguez, Fabio Yataco and Jordan Rodriguez] who choose.
What kinds of things do they learn during the eight-month class?
They learn about community engagement, networking, finance, leadership, civic engagement. We connect them with a lot of events that are happening in the community.
On Dec. 3, we are having our Indiana Latino Awards gala, and that’s where we celebrate the contributions of Latinos and Hispanics in the areas of education, health, entrepreneurship. So, we invite the class to these events so they can learn about other organizations, about other entrepreneurs.
Do they get a mentor during the program?
Yes. Each person gets a mentor assigned to work with them throughout that time. We want them to maintain the relationship they have with their mentors. And then eventually, they can become a mentor for another young professional or they can inspire others to learn from them.
What do you want the participants to take away from the program when they’re done?
To be intentional about serving the Latino community. To find where their passions lie and use that to serve—on boards, in running for a place in government, to fill a gap where they see a gap that’s not being filled by another organization. To be involved with the community and create networks and be a better representative of the Latino community.•