Latinitas celebrates the promotion of Liliana Cortez from Program Director to Latinitas’ first Chief Programs Officer this month. Liliana has shown exemplory leadership managing Latinitas’ program suite and its staff over one of the most challenging periods of the organization’s history.
Liliana joined Latinitas team Fall of 2021 during the pandemic’s pique. Prior to joining the Latinitas’ team, she had single handedly launched north Austin’s first bilingual pre school where she managed a team of educators and dozens of babies and children. A graduate of Texas A&M International campus in Laredo, TX, Liliana also has a background in communications and marketing.
“Liliana was a virtual hire and she came in at a moment where Latinitas had transitioned all programming to remote learning — essentially overnight — clubs, camps, conferences, coding and journalism certifications. That transition required creativity and a huge amount of trust-building with program staff, girls in Latinitas and parents. If that wasn’t challenging enough, Latinitas’ newest program Chicas Roboticas was successfully launched during this time.” explains Latinitas CEO Laura Donnelly.
Right away, she brought a gentle charge to a dynamic team that has been an incredible support network and outlet for Austin’s most innovative, but also most marginalized “chicas”. In a short window, Liliana has orchestrated more clubs, doubled camps, increased the frequency of Latinitas’ signature entrepreneurship conference, Startup Chica, from 2 to 4 annually virtually and in person which have attracted girls from all over Texas, 25 other states and even other countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica. Liliana has put order on Latinitas data collection, program calendar, curriculum set up and lately expansion into one of the fastest growing Latino epicenters nationwide: San Antonio, TX.
Liliana’s leadership goes beyond the programs. She sees a need and steps in with initiative. She is comfortable bringing new ideas to the table, but also welcoming of collaboration. Liliana manages a team of creative and compassionate program professionals. Under normal circumstances youth enrichment has obstacles such as providing technology to communities with the least access, but the past two years of quarantining and the disproportionate infection and death rates of Austin’s LatinX and other BIPOC communities weighed heavy on program participants, as well as staff. Liliana has put as much energy into creating an atmosphere of good mental health as she has for innovation.
“Liliana is an incredibly thoughtful, empathetic and uplifting leader. She is dedicated to the vision of Latinitas and inspires me to be curious, creative and adaptable as a young professional. Her support, guidance and mentorship has been meaningful to me and has contributed greatly to my growth. Her powerful and positive impact can be seen across the organization!” says Latinitas Program Coordinator Ariane Stier.
Liliana’s activity in Latinitas’ board driven programs committee has engaged more engineers, software developers and digital media creators than ever expanding Latinitas’ reputation as a resource for workforce development and mentorship for youth.
Latinitas Board Member and Programs Chair Ramiro Diaz explains, “Liliana is dedicated and mission focused with a great understanding of not only the goals of each program, but also of all the staff working to make it happen. Her lead is a great example of how to get programs running effectively.”
We can’t wait to see what other ways Liliana Cortez can inspire and encourage the city’s most underestimated resource of new and diverse thought: Latina and other youth of color.