Andres Connell / Executive Director of Nuestra Casa

Nuestra Casa is the first and only grassroots community organization in East Palo Alto dedicated to increasing civic participation and promoting economic self-sufficiency for the Latino community

1. What motivates and inspires you?

The potential for community transformation inspires me. Every morning when I get up to go to work, I feel enthused about the possibilities. Even with all of the funding and organizational challenges before us, I still believe that the future for our underserved families can be brighter. I'm simply committed to that endeavor.

2. Please list four of the most important characteristics of a good leader?

Passion – without passion you have no fuel for life.

Strategic Thinking – there is no substitute for a well-managed game plan.

Great Communication – regardless of how brilliant you may be, if you can't communicate your vision, you can't recruit others into your circle.

Dedication to Service – it's not about you, it's about the task at hand.

3. What advice would you give young people who are interested in a career in public service?

For any young person coming into the field I would recommend the following: get your education, work for an organization that you respect, trust your gut, don't be afraid to take chances, and never rest on your laurels. We constantly need to keep challenging ourselves to do things better.

4. Please name one challenge and opportunity for the Latino community in California?

The destiny of the Latino community in California and in the rest of the country will be determined by the quality of our leaders. This is both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity. We have the capacity to do great things but we must invest in the proper development of our present and future leaders.

5. What is the vision for the future of your organization?

We envision an organization that will continue to grow and expand its menu of services in the coming years. We have doubled the size of the organization in the last 3 years and we continue to look for opportunities to serve the needs of our community in an intelligent fashion. Nuestra Casa offers great programs and the quality of our staff is exceptional.

6. How do you spend your free time?

Outside of work, I like to spend time with family and friends. I love to play soccer, I enjoy traveling to other countries (visited 28 thus far), and I'm passionate about scuba diving.

Andrés R. Connell has served as Executive Director of Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto since January of 2009. He is a passionate professional with over 17 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. For the past 10 years, he has functioned as a Senior Program Director/Executive Director, as well as a Board Member, for various community-based organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds a BS in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara, a Project Management Certificate Degree from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. Mr. Connell has committed his career to working with low-income communities with the aim of inspiring its residents to bring about positive social changes.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler / Executive Director of BAHIA

BAHIA Inc. is a recognized leader in bilingual and holistic early childhood education and has served the Latino community of West Berkeley for over 30 years.

1. What motivates and inspires you?

What motivates and inspires me everyday is my work with children and education. I know that I can make an impact as a Director of a bilingual program and as an elected school board member. I can actually see that my connection to the community and my years of work as an educator in this field makes a difference in policy, practice and advocacy. Seeing the difference inspires me to do more, and to be better in my role and responsibilities. I love to mentor the next generation to do what I do - and do it better. That's inspirational.

2. Please list four of the most important characteristics of a good leader?

A good listener, who is humble, has values and very high expectations. In my field, it’s also important to know how to communicate, create consensus, and build coalitions so that we can work together to truly make a difference.

3. What advice would you give young people who are interested in a career in public service?

My advice to young people would be to begin now - start volunteering! Be on time, be a smart observer and don’t be afraid to take initiative and participate. Make yourself available to learn and to be open to growth. Succeed in school, join clubs, participate in extracurricular activities... and most importantly stay engaged in what matters most to you.

4. Please name one challenge and opportunity for the Latino community in California?

The one challenge we have in our community is making sure that our students succeed academically. More attention, support and leadership development needs to be provided to our youth. We need to make sure that schools are prepared to support them academically as well as personally.

5. What is the vision for the future of your organization?

That BAHIA Inc. will have a strong financial future so that we can continue to be a beacon in providing quality bilingual early to school age education and care in the community.

6. How do you spend your free time? (outside of work)

I practice yoga and love to do early morning cardio workouts. I love spending time with my family! I love spending my free time with my granddaughters, my son (who will soon be traveling/studying abroad) and my daughter who is a nurse. They make me happy and remind me how important it is to be a good parent. I love them unconditionally.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler is the Executive Director of BAHIA and has been a dedicated employee of BAHIA for 31 years. Beatriz is Co-Chair of the Chicana/Latina Foundation Board of Directors, she is alumni of EMERGE California which prepares democratic women for political office and of LeaderSpring Institute which provides a two year fellowship for non-profit Executive Directors. Since 2008, Beatriz has served on the Berkeley School Board. In 2010, Beatriz was invited to join the National Latino Children’s Institute, a national policy and advocacy organization focused on Latino children.