Graduates gather to celebrate program’s success

HENRIETTA — A group of 23 Latino professionals recently joined the more than 750 local Latinos who have graduated during the past 35 years from the Latino Leadership Development Program.

The United Way of Greater Rochester celebrated the anniversary and 2017 commencement Sept. 27 at the Double Tree Inn. The event included a brief history of the program and a performance by Borinquen Dance Theatre.

Fran Weisberg, the United Way’s president and CEO, applauded the program’s accomplishment and said such leadership programs are invaluable to the community.

“What you will do after this graduation is critical to the United Way,” she noted of this year’s LLDP graduates.

Nydia Padilla-Rodríguez, director of community partnerships for the Rochester City School District, explained that the LLDP program grew out of a 1982 report from a United Way task force that highlighted the lack of Latino presence on the the boards of local non-Latino agencies.

Padilla-Rodriguez, who also is the founder of Borinquen Dance, said she was hired by the United Way to develop a response to the report, and the Hispanic Leadership Development Program, now called LLDP, was born. The program has exceeded expectations, as the program’s staff at the time thought the program would last three years at most.

“Look at us today,” she said. “Take risks because you need to see the change happen. … People really advocated for change.”

Unfortunately, though, there is no longer a Latino representative on the city school board and Monroe County Legislature and only one on Rochester City Council, Padilla-Rodriguez noted.

“Don’t be complacent and be the sleeping giant,” she said. “Be the change agent necessary to move our community forward.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a video of the event, visit https://facebook.com/MensajeroRochester.

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