Strengthening nonprofit leadership and promoting immigrant rights and integration are major grantmaking priorities for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. In 2011, a program conceived and supported by the Fund is combining these priorities by strengthening the leadership skills and experience of a group of leaders in California’s immigrant rights movement.
“By supporting this amazing group of community leaders, we are investing in the future of the immigrant rights movement and building a stronger California for all,” said Cathy Cha, Senior Program Officer for Immigrant Rights and Integration with the Fund.
In its inaugural year in 2011-2012, the Fellowship for a New California enrolled 24 individuals working in 16 cities throughout California in a year-long program managed by the nationally recognized Rockwood Leadership Institute. The program includes three retreats; skills training and peer learning; individual leadership development planning; one-on-one coaching; networking opportunities; and more.
The concept for the fellowship program was developed by Linda Wood and Paula Morris of the Haas, Jr. Fund, in coordination with Rockwood. According to Wood, the intent of the program is to develop the vision and skills of talented and committed leaders as a crucial step to creating social change.
“We need to nurture, grow and celebrate leaders who reflect the diverse population of our state, especially those who can lift the voices of those who are not often heard,” she said.
An important focus of the fellowship is fostering a higher level of collaboration among leaders and organizations working on immigration issues across California. “This is about supporting networks and a movement that can help ensure that California’s policies and practices are keeping pace with the changing demographics of our state,” Wood said.
“For generations, California has attracted people seeking the opportunities that only the Golden State can offer,” added Akaya Windwood, president of the Rockwood Leadership Institute. “This program supports the leaders who are making sure that California is welcoming, inclusive and fair to newcomers, and who make incalculable contributions to our economy and culture when they come here to make a better life for their families.”
One of the inaugural fellows in the program was Maria Rodriguez, statewide youth organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “In no place is the American Dream more vivid than in California,” she said.
“My family came here to make a better life, but also to build a better community,” Rodriguez continued. “I am committing to this fellowship because I want to continue paving the way to a future California where there are more opportunities and justice for immigrants, who contribute to this state in fundamental ways every day."