Our ‘From’ Doesn’t Define Our ‘To’

By Naomi Sosa, NCLR Corporate Development Officer

Naomi and her mother at NCLR Headquarters

For many years, the smell of arroz con pollo, a traditional Dominican dish, sparked flashbacks of the challenging facets of growing up in my neighborhood. It evoked memories of overcrowded classrooms in my elementary school, of youth whose dreams were snatched away by the ruthless and conniving streets, of bootleggers interrupting my hairdresser as she rushed to finish styling my hair before Sunday service, of street pharmacists (as many of my friends would say) patrolling the neighborhood corners recruiting customers, and of local bodegas often blasting the latest merengue hits while elderly men engaged in a game of dominoes hissed at women walking by.

Today, the smell of arroz con pollo arouses a sense of heartwarming pride, un orgullo. It no longer equates to the negative aspects of growing up in el barrio. Instead, that familiar scent symbolizes the accomplished Latinos I’ve met at NCLR, a powerful network of community leaders that spans across the United States, the strength of a united Latino body, the mentors who have encouraged me to dream big and take risks, and a life-long commitment to serving my community via my work.

Keep up with the latest from UnidosUS

Sign up for the weekly UnidosUS Action Network newsletter delivered every Thursday.

In many regards, NCLR has been a place of professional and personal growth for me. I have been challenged to develop my voice as a Latina and as a future leader. I’m encouraged to be an agent of change, and through my work, I’m able to hold others accountable to doing right by the Latino community.

I am fortunate for the opportunity to work at an organization that takes pride in creating opportunities for Latino families—families similar to my own—alongside brilliant colleagues who strive to do great things.

Joining in Red Nose Day festivities.

But despite all of the personal and professional advantages that have come from working at NCLR, my “why” remains unchanged: I think about the youth growing up in my neighborhood today and I ask myself, “who will set the example for them to dream big?” Who will encourage them to take risks? Who will be their network of accomplished Latino role models? Who will challenge them to be civically engaged and give back to their own communities? I know I must be one of the “who.”

The truth is that NCLR is more than just a job; it’s my medium to be a ray of hope for others who also dream of someday doing great things.

Naomi is NCLR’s Corporate Development Officer. Under Naomi’s guidance, NCLR is helping build stronger American communities by identifying shared value opportunities with corporate America.