‘Adelante’ means onward or upward in Spanish. To help Latino youth move onward and upward, Stella R. Murga founded what became Adelante Youth Alliance (AYA) in 2001 as a community-based nonprofit organization in Pasadena. She was responding to a dramatic increase in local youth violence and high school drop-out rates.
In 2016, concerned that AYA needed board training and more sophisticated financial management, Stella reached out to Jericho Road Pasadena and found volunteers to help her on both fronts.
Now AYA’s Executive Director, Stella has seen AYA grow to the point that it produces the two largest annual college and career conferences for Latina and Latino youth in California: Adelante Mujer Latina & Adelante Young Men Conference. Despite AYA’s success in inspiring Latino youth to follow their dreams, however, she grew convinced that AYA had to change to ensure it would endure to provide another generation of girls and boys with the tools for personal growth.
“The members of the Board of Directors have incredible credentials and are committed to AYA,” explained Leslie White, a Jericho Road Pasadena volunteer who led a board development project for AYA. “What the Board needed—and this is not exclusive to the AYA board—was direction on governance, for instance, how authority passes from the board to the staff and back again,” Leslie added.
Leslie worked in the corporate world for nearly 20 years, focused on retail buying, product development and strategic planning. She and her husband have always been involved in the community, giving back by participating on boards whose missions resonate with them. Leslie found that with Young and Healthy more than 10 years ago and served as board president for 2 terms.
She brought her experience as a board chair to AYA. “We set up a plan for clear expectations, including setting up committees, give-and-get expectations, and providing a clear sense of what is required from a nonprofit board,” Leslie said.
“This included fundraising requirements for the Board and the fact that the executive director reports to the board and the board is responsible for supporting the executive director and the staff,” Leslie said.
Leslie has seen other boards require the same help: “Boards come together and have the best of intentions regarding the nonprofit they represent,” she explained. “Clear direction is really all boards need to be successful.”
Judy Gain led the finance project to aid AYA. Judy retired in 2011 after a 30-year career at Avery Dennison Corporation as Director, Global Treasury Operations, and started volunteering with Jericho Road Pasadena soon after. She now serves as JRP’s Board Treasurer and also serves on the Board of Pasadena Community Foundation.
“AYA needed assistance in installing appropriate financial systems, controls, policies and procedures,” said Judy. “We also helped AYA define the role of the Finance Committee and train the Finance Committee and Board on how to read financial statements,” she added.
“I believe AYA is well on its way to sound financial management,” Judy emphasized. “They have hired an accountant/bookkeeper and now have financial statements that the Finance Committee and Board can use to properly assess AYA’s financial health. Fortunately, the Board member I worked with is financially savvy and is committed to helping AYA.”
“What has given me the most satisfaction from my work with AYA is that many of the youth I started working with are now adults,” shared Stella. “They are doing very well, some with families of their own. Some return to us as college graduates, serving as tutors and mentors to our young students, and also serve as workshop presenters for the conferences.”
“Leslie and Judy helped show us how to be a stronger organization, so we are here to offer a safe and encouraging space for the next group of students,” Stella added. Thanks for AYA for helping so many Latino youth move onward and upward!
JRP volunteer Ned J Racine is a freelance writer with a Masters in Playwriting from UCLA. But to make actual money, he directs community relations for Metro’s Purple Line extension.