“What does the world need from me?” Javier Rivera-Rosales asks constantly to help align his values and moral character. A director for a nonprofit serving LGBTQIA youth, Javier is a participant in the first Sonoma County cohort of On The Verge (OTV), a leadership program.
Parent organization On The Move was founded on a similar question. As etsuko kubo, Program Director for OTV explains: “Our founders were looking forward, asking ‘What happens when Baby Boomers leave leadership positions? Will we have people trained and having personal and professional networks to serve the social good?”
A year-long leadership intensive, OTV focuses on personal, interpersonal, and professional skills, culminating in a community-based project. Participants receive group and individual coaching, and attend monthly group meetings, putting into practice their developing skills.
“We identify leaders and how they reflect their constituents,” says etsuko. “Some grew up in adverse situations like foster care, or belonging to the LGBTQIA community. How do we help them to get to the next level, to sustain themselves while living their lives? We look around. We ask, ‘Who lives and works here? How can they represent leadership in their communities?’”
Javier is unabashedly enthusiastic about OTV. His personal network expanded immediately. “We bring value to our communities when we develop collaborations and new relationships. Together, we offer new pathways to growth. We share our own and others’ lives and experiences, offering space for other voices to be heard. We can create something that represents voices not sitting at the table.”
With 18 cohorts completed, On The Move expanded to Sonoma County last fall, launching a new cohort of 15 emerging public and nonprofit leaders from the field of mental health. While rates of mental illness among Latinos and whites in the U.S. are roughly equivalent, whites are far more likely to receive treatment—by about 60%, according to a 2008 study.
This dynamic group of leaders sparked the idea of combating issues of stigma, access, culture, and language through creation of a center for the Latino community, focused on increasing awareness about and access to mental health services. Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, they envision a vibrant, welcoming center combining Western and traditional Latino healing practices.
“Our mental health focus relates to shifting paradigms, because in Latino culture there are layers upon layers of stigma,” says Javier. “Change will come by practicing traditional and non-traditional ways of healing in a community that has not connected to Western medicine.”
A second cohort begins this fall, and will carry out the vision created by the inaugural group, with support from some first year leaders. The opportunity for participants to grow in their leadership capacity and mentor others is just one of the many unique aspects of On The Verge.
Sonoma County’s On The Verge program is supported by the Community Foundation’s Latino Leadership initiative. We are providing three years of consecutive support, in collaboration with the John Jordan Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Health and Sutter Health.