Networking for Change

National Institute for Latino School Leaders forms inaugural alumni council

The past few years have awakened the advocate in all of us, but many of us don’t know how to get started. Even though we want to make a difference, becoming a productive advocate—and even finding the time to advocate—is a difficult task.

Those who work in schools know this all too well. Teachers, counselors, and administrators see the effects of policy every day, and have vital perspectives that should influence that policy more than they sometimes do.

School administration is a busy and sometimes even isolated job, but six school leaders are looking to change all that.


The six educators form the NILSL Alumni Council, which held its initial meeting in Los Angeles last week. The council is a continuation of the National Institute for Latino School Leaders, or NILSL, an UnidosUS fellowship that helps educators become policy advocates for the diverse students in their schools and communities. While there are 52 alums of the program, this is the first alumni council.

The NILSL fellowship involves intensive training on current state and federal education policy, and how educators can turn their experience with Latino students and English learners into advocacy that breaks barriers to their students’ success. The council will keep the alumni network engaged, motivating each other to keep creating meaningful change for minority students.

“Before the council was created, NILSL alumni were already reaching out to one another and serving as an informal network on issues affecting their schools. We know that fellows find incredible value in the NILSL network and are eager to remain connected. The alumni council will strengthen ties between alumni from different places and cohorts and create new opportunities for shared advocacy, increasing the impact and visibility of the NILSL program and alumni network.” said Feliza Ortiz-Licon, Senior Director of Education Leadership Development at UnidosUS, who led the creation of the NILSL fellowship since 2011.

NILSL Alumni Council Members

– Alexandra Hernandez, Principal, New York City Department of Education
– Yvette King-Berg, Executive Director, Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools
– John Monteleone, Assistant Superintendent, Oberlin City Schools
– Jamie Nicholas, Assistant Principal, Denver Public Schools
– Tommy Ramirez, Director, MAAC Community Charter Schools
– Marisol Rerucha, Career-Readiness and Technical Education Specialist, San Diego County Office of Education



Over two days, the council met with UnidosUS staff to discuss their vision for the council, how it will function, and what its initial goals are.

“There was one point during the day when we split into two groups to define the mission of the alumni council. When we came back together, it was shocking to see almost no variation between the two definitions. This group really clicks,” Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator at UnidosUS, recounted of the session.

As the council took turns facilitating the meeting, the group defined its goals for the next year. They prioritized cultivating the alumni network’s skills learned through the fellowship, including creating a resource guide of alumni’s expertise, hosting peer exchanges to share that expertise with the rest of the network, and developing social media strategies to promote the fellows’ advocacy.

Maria Moser, Senior Director of Teaching and Learning at UnidosUS, shared that, “the council is truly led by the alumni–they have flexibility and independence in defining and planning for this initiative. Without a doubt, they stepped up and collaboratively defined their mission, goals, and plan for the year in a very short timeframe. I’m excited for the next stage of our work.”

Over the next few months, expect to hear more about their communications work and
opportunities to learn from NILSL alumni across the country via webinars and other outreach activities.

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National Institute for Latino School Leaders forms inaugural alumni council The past few years have awakened the advocate in all of us, but many of us don’t know how to […]