Latino Leadership Initiative Prepares UMass Boston Students for Expanded Roles

Office of Communications | July 31, 2014
Abel Cano '12 served as a mentor to Lizmarie Peralta, Placidina Fico, and Jason Garcia.

Abel Cano '12 served as a mentor to Lizmarie Peralta, Placidina Fico, and Jason Garcia.

Being able to tell my story not only to empower myself but to empower a community of people was absolutely amazing.

Three Rising Seniors Represent UMass Boston at Texas Conference

Three members of the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Class of 2015 spent part of this summer strengthening their leadership skills at the fifth annual Latino Leadership Initiative.

One of those students, Jason Garcia, will be putting the intensive training to use this fall as an intern at the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, one of UMass Boston’s neighbors on Columbia Point.

Garcia, a political science major from Madras, Oregon, was one of three UMass Boston students who participated in this year’s institute. Lizmarie Peralta, a psychology major from Lawrence, and Placidina Fico, a women’s and gender studies major from Reading, also took part.

Last month at Texas A&M International University, faculty and staff from the Harvard Kennedy School worked with 35 students from eight schools on speaking, decision-making, and negotiating skills. The students had the opportunity to network with their peers and leaders from the nonprofit, business, and government worlds.

“Being able to tell my story not only to empower myself but to empower a community of people was absolutely amazing,” Garcia said of his time at the LLI. “Dissecting the stories of some of the most influential leaders in history—Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr.—and learning how they used their personal struggles and failures as tools for motivation was powerful.”

Prior to participating in this summer’s conference, Garcia and members of the LLI’s 2013 cohort created a leadership program for Latino students on the UMass Boston campus called the Latino Leadership and Success Program. He invited professors to speak to issues of Latino identity, the needs of the community, and the best way to engage politically to address those issues.

Peralta is also very involved on campus as a member of UMass Boston’s Latino Leadership Success Program and Casa Latina. She is active in her hometown of Lawrence, serving as a member of the Youth at Risk Task Force and the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force.

“The expectations I have for myself at UMass Boston are to continue organizing our Latino community with the goal of increasing our retention rates,” Peralta said.

Fico, whose leadership skills are praised by her employers in her hometown, said, “The most meaningful gift I gained from my LLI experience was a feeling of empowerment that charged the entire week.”

The Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School has sponsored the leadership conference since 2010 to develop the next generation of Latino leaders. It is estimated that the Latino community will double in size over the next 40 years and will comprise more than 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.

About UMass Boston
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve more than 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit

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