Community Leader Spotlight with Alex Oliver-Davila of Sociedad Latina

Alex Oliver-DavilaAs executive director of Sociedad LatinaAlex Oliver-Davila serves Latino youth and families in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Through over 20 years of leadership of Sociedad Latina, Alex has created collaborations, utilized data, and leveraged key resources to support Latino families and give youth more chances to thrive.

Sociedad Latina uses their Pathways to Success model and other innovative solutions to help Latino youth overcome their unique challenges. The America’s Promise Alliance Engagement team was able to hear from Alex this month to learn more about Sociedad Latina’s work and what keeps her passionate about serving the community.

Q: What keeps you doing this work?

A: The young people! I love their hope, passion and belief that they can change the world! There is nothing more gratifying to me than seeing our youth come back as young adults to tell me what they are up to. We have alumni working for Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Barr Foundation, the Department of Public Health; attending law school; and four who are Sociedad Latina staff.

There are so many success stories, and I could go on and on Seeing the growth of these young people is truly inspiring. I am honored to have been able to partner with the youth and families who have come through Sociedad Latina's doors. 

Q: What work in your community are you most excited about right now?

A: I am excited about our work to build awareness regarding the need to create a culturally proficient, culturally responsive and sustaining public school district. We need more teachers that reflect the student body, professional development in culturally proficient practices and strategies, and to work with our higher education institutions to make sure teachers graduate with all the tools they need to work in diverse settings.

Our youth organizers have been working on this campaign for several years, and we are proud that because of their work, the district is looking at professional development in cultural proficiency and developing measurement tools. To learn more about our work on cultural proficiency, check out the video created by our Youth Community Organizing Team called, "Culture Matters."

Q: What successes in your community are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of the number of young people we have supported to graduate from high school with clear next steps for college and employment.

Forty percent of the youth we work with have been in our programs since middle school. We follow them for two years after graduation, providing a mentor or college coach. I am proud to say that eighty-six percent of our youth continue in positive activities, including college and employment.

I am proud of the creation of our cultural identity curriculum, which supports youth in exploring their culture and background. As the saying goes, you cannot know where you're going unless you know where you've been. I'm proud that we provide a safe and supportive space for youth to celebrate their background, heritage, culture and language.

Q: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned?

A: Follow your mission! Don't try to do everything! Figure out what you do best and stick with that! Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. As a staff and board, we continue to work on creating a culture of excellence. To do this, you need to constantly look at how your programs are doing. Staff meet on a quarterly basis to review all of our data and discuss changes or enhancements.

In the end, we want the young people we partner with to have the most supportive positive experience possible. That is what our work is all about, supporting the positive development of the next generation of Latino leaders.

Sociedad Latina is one of many organizations working to better support students whose first language is not English (FLNE) in Massachusetts. Massachusetts was recently awarded a $200,000 grant to better support FLNE students through the GradNation State Activation initiative, a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson working to raise high school graduation rates to 90 percent.