Ms. Mendoza has worked in other capacities over the years at
Adelante, including director of early literacy programs. Many on
the agency’s board have stated she has both grown with the
agency and been groomed to eventually lead its efforts.
“I think it is an advantage, particularly in my case, because
I’ve moved up three times within the organization,” she said. “I
know what is it is to work directly with clients, to manage the
programs, to handle emergencies. It gives me a firsthand
understanding of what my coworkers and clients go through on a
“I’m excited. She’s a rising star. I’m confident—and the board
is confident—that Adelante is going to be doing some wonderful
things,” said board member Lisa Canales.
Ms. Mendoza knows firsthand the struggles of immigrant families
to assimilate to US-American life, because she faced the same
troubles as a young girl.
She publicly recounted those struggles two years ago during the
César Chávez Humanitarian Awards. Born in Nicaragua, her
family immigrated to Miami. But the large Spanish-speaking
community there did not require her to learn English.
However, after her family moved to Sylvania, she lost out on a
speaking part for the Wizard of Oz because of her poor English.
Ms. Mendoza described it as “culture shock” for both her and
classmates, because she was “the only brown person there.”
Ms. Mendoza was finally motivated to brush up on her bilingual
skills when her family relocated to Willard, a rural area in
“I finally learned English, but there wasn’t an Adelante, there
wasn’t a community, just my family,” she recalled at the awards
ceremony. “My church was it.”
When her family finally moved permanently back to Toledo, she
sought out a newly-formed Spanish Club at Bowsher High School.
Ms. Mendoza’s first experience with Adelante was a trip to see
Disney on Ice. She later graduated from Owens Community
College and joined the staff at Adelante as early literacy
“Once upon a time, I was one of those children,” she said at the
Ms. Mendoza has been in the United States for 25 years and has
lived in Toledo for more than 17 years. Her sister Karla is a
registered nurse and another sister Ivonne is a probation
“You can truly say that my family is living the American Dream,”
she said. “We came here with nothing and to be where we are
today I can just say we are truly blessed. My parents Marielana
and Bayardo always pushed us to do our best no matter what
position we were placed in. They taught us great values and
morals that I apply every day.”
Co-workers describe Ms. Mendoza as passionate about helping
Latino families in metro Toledo—a job that will only grow for
Adelante as the population continues to explode.
“I love my profession. I look forward to going to work. I love
my community and working with them and for them,” she said.
Ms. Mendoza will face the challenge of an economy that continues
to sputter along locally—a face that has drastically affected
fund-raising. Latino non-profit groups are not immune from that
“However, I do believe that the survival of Adelante through the
years is a testament of our community,” she said. “I am thankful
to our funders and donors who still believe in Adelante’s
mission and vision.”
Her immediate priorities are to spread the message of Adelante
in addition to her fund-raising role as executive director.
“I want to reach out to our community leaders, funders, donors
and have one-on-one meetings about who, and what, Adelante
represents for the community,” she said. “Fund-raising is
becoming more difficult, but I am still a believer in the
face-to-face contact, the success stories, the passion that
speaks volumes when you are talking to a person about why we do
what we do at Adelante.”
To that end, Ms. Mendoza has extended a personal invitation to
meet anyone curious about the organization over coffee or stop
by the agency’s Broadway offices for a chat.
“I invite our community leaders to reach out and get involved,
volunteer, join the board,” she said. “I am a phone call away—so
call me, I am sure to find something for you to help out.”
Ms. Mendoza stated the agency has “a few plans to expand two
programs and look forward to adding new programs,” although
“nothing is really set in stone at this time.”
She’s excited about the prospects of either as “just fantastic
for our organization.”
She’s also hopeful that past clients and the Latino community at
large can help propel the agency forward.
“I always hear stories of folks that were touched by Adelante in
one way or another,” she said. “To those folks, I urge them to
reach out and give back. I am not talking about money. If that
is one way you give back, that's fine. But I encourage you to
volunteer, learn about the needs of your community, your
neighborhood, get involved, learn to love the place you live in
and help make it a better place.”