Latino Professional Connects the Dots Between Passion and Careers for Young Underserved Women
Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Robert Quintero. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.
Throughout his career, Robert Quintero has recognized the importance of gender and cultural diversity in bringing new dimensions to any enterprise. This commitment has lead Robert to volunteer his time, professional knowledge and resources to Embracing Latina Leadership Alliances (ELLAS), a nonprofit established in 2003 by L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth honoree Pilar Pinel that facilitates academic and leadership opportunities for Latina youth.
As a mentor, former board member and advisor for ELLAS over the past 20 years, Robert is a dedicated advocate for the advancement of young underserved and underrepresented women in their careers. With his support, over the past 20 years, ELLAs has positively impacted 11,600 young women.
Read Robert’s story to learn more about the importance he sees in representation for underserved groups and how he is challenging gender stereotypes through his volunteerism.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My inspiration focuses on ensuring that others benefit and grow as a result of my contribution. If I can give my time and expertise, and in the course of doing that they achieve their goals, then I’ve succeeded. I am driven by simple things, like making connections that can change a young woman’s career trajectory and in fact her life.
Describe your volunteer role with ELLAS.
I am an advocate for the advancement of young underserved and underrepresented women. As such, my participation and involvement has been to serve as a mentor, advisor, ally and funder. The empowerment of women is all about rights and equitable societies. Empowerment includes the action of raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy and training as we have done through ELLAS.
I served on the ELLAs board for 10 years. Today, I am in an advisory role. I identify and champion grant funding for program activities, I support the ELLAS monthly community outreach and the ELLAS Annual Empowerment Conference. This is a collaboration between educators, professionals and community partners to inspire, motivate and empower underprivileged Latinas and other marginalized young women while setting in place a much needed academic, socio-economic scaffolding absent in their young lives.
My goal and passion with working with ELLAS has always been to assist as many young women as possible to reach and achieve their full academic potentials and professional goals. I speak at the ELLAS Annual Empowerment Conference from the perspective of a friend, father, brother and ally to the young women. I have identified and secured dynamic and powerful women who participate in the empowerment conference to share their success stories that will resonate with the young women. I have also created a pipeline of mentors for these young women.
It is my passion to empower the ELLAS young women in a way that will boost their self-esteem, shut down negativity, support women owned businesses, facilitate proper education and job opportunities, and promote boosting other women.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Connecting the dots. If you can’t visualize yourself in a certain career or role, you won’t pursue it. However, if you see someone of your own gender, ethnicity, or background doing something you like, you relate to it. You think, “If they can do it, I can do it.” It’s important that these young ladies see themselves in their role models. That’s why most of our speakers and mentors are Latina, but not all. Again, I want to emphasize that men can also be excellent role models and mentors for young women.
ELLAS serves as the “neck” that turns the heads of these young women toward careers that are aligned with their passions.
We collaborate with role models who have already pioneered the way. Many of these girls are poised to be first-generation college students. They don’t know what they don’t know. If they’re the first in their family, they have no guidance in choosing a field of study. They also don’t know how to pay for school since they’re unaware of resources. And when it comes to a career path, these girls rarely have opportunities to interact with successful professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders from traditional and non-traditional careers: doctors, lawyers, news anchors, pilots, scientists and other STEM professionals, artists, motivational speakers and so on.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
By volunteering, you become grounded and humble. We often take our opportunities for granted and I realized that not everyone has had the opportunities I’ve been given. Through mentoring, I realized we all have different perspectives, and we all come with different gifts and backgrounds. In a culture of mansplaining (the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing), I’ve become a better listener, allowing others to contribute; this creates robust conversations and solutions. It’s also important to make people see that their contributions made a difference.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I am excited about the upcoming ELLAS empowerment conference. I actively seek out women within my company, Southern California Edison, who could serve as moderators and speakers. These presenting women are not just Latina women; I want to provide diverse individuals as role models since the attending students are not all Latina. SoCal Edison has a large volunteer program. Every year the company provides thirty $50,000 scholarships to high school students looking to pursue higher education. We surprise these young individuals with their scholarships in April and I can tell you, these are tearjerker moments! Some of these kids would not pursue higher education without these scholarships. The company also has an internship program, and contributes financially to ELLAs.
Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?
We all have a purpose in life. Once you find that purpose, you fuel others’ passions by pulling them into participating in what they believe in. Being a voice of ELLAS, I’ve connected with people who say “Wow, I wish there had been something like this when I was in high school…” It’s a testament to what we do when some of our past young ladies come back as guest speakers, mentors, advisors, board members, or volunteers. Giving back without expecting anything in return and putting in the time and energy commitments has extraordinary rewards.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
What’s really important is as a Latino male, there can be stereotypes that men cannot be mentors to young ladies, because of the culture. Yet we are fathers, brothers and colleagues. Men can serve as role models and allies to women and help women move through their careers. If men were more inclusive of their female counterparts, we would have more progress and success in any area.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. Just put it in your head that you’re going to volunteer for a certain number of hours a month or year. Volunteer at a food bank, mentor high school kids, participate in church programs or any local nonprofit. Giving your time is a great thing!
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Robert? Find local volunteer opportunities.