Welcome to SVCF’s Staff Spotlight, an occasional series in which we present Q&A-style profiles of our staff members. In this edition, we feature Leticia Gonzalez, project manager for Movement- and Power-Building.
How long have you been at SVCF? What led you to this work?
I have been at SVCF for almost seven years. I came to SVCF with a background in early childhood education with a focus in family engagement in early literacy. I was working with Raising A Reader in East San José.
I joined the foundation when SVCF received a federal government grant from the Social Innovation Fund to start an initiative called The Big Lift.The goal was to increase third grade reading proficiency levels for all children in San Mateo County, focusing on schools located in the lowest income zip codes. Raising A Reader was the family engagement strategy we deployed to support the love of reading during the preschool years and to leverage family engagement. I was brought on to manage the program’s implementation reaching close to 6,000 children. The funny thing is that the initial conversation was about a one- to three-year commitment. Years later, I am still thrilled to be a part of the team and my role has significantly evolved.
With the implementation of SVCF's new strategic plan in 2020, how has your role evolved?
It has changed completely! When the strategic plan was rolled out, the foundation doubled down on investing locally. We also committed to influencing philanthropic dollars to support communities of color working to address systemic issues and to achieve equitable access to opportunities for all Silicon Valley residents. I joined the grantmaking team to work on the implementation of the COVID-19 Nonprofit Emergency Response Fund and other response funds.
COVID-19 reinforced the need for us to partner with smaller organizations that are embedded in communities of color and led by people of color. These organizations are trusted partners for the communities they serve and engage those most impacted by the problems in designing solutions. I find that exciting! And it gives me hope we can tackle complex problems.
In addition to managing some of the Community Action team's operations and serving as the “glue” for my team, my goal is to build intentional relationships with our nonprofit partners. This helps me to better understand how they operate and to identify ways where we can support them more effectively. We’re working with them in a more collaborative way than before. We listen and respond any way we can and have ongoing conversations about SVCF’s work. Their feedback helps inform our processes and our strategies.
What excites you most about SVCF’s work?
We are living our strategic plan every day and it’s invigorating to me! SVCF is leading with equity and we are really listening to the community to inform our work. We are getting tons of positive feedback — our partners and community members are as excited as we are about the new direction, and they can see it in action.
Leticia and Raising A Reader (RAR) President and CEO Michelle Torgerson record a podcast to celebrate RAR’s 20th anniversary in 2019.
What do you like most about working with the Community Action department at the foundation?
I love that we have a very solid group of veterans on the team who have been working in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties for many years. They’re people that really believe in what we’re doing, and that’s always inspiring. I also love that I get to work with the Spanish-speaking communities in the heart of Silicon Valley. That’s just a fun bonus.
What are your biggest hopes and dreams for the future of Silicon Valley?
My hope is that we get to a place where local governments value essential workers and support them on a deep level. I hope for more affordable housing and for all to have livable wages, so that Silicon Valley’s wealth can be enjoyed by all who choose to live here.
What do you most like to do outside of work?
I used to be a chef many years ago, so I love cooking. I also love dancing – any chance I get, I go dancing. And I also love camping and taking my daughter to the outdoors.
Who are your heroes?
Preschool teachers are my heroes. They have a really hard and important job of working with our children in their most critical years. They do it with so much love, but are very often underappreciated.
If you were to donate to one charity or cause, what would it be, and why?
There are so many organizations doing incredible work, and when I talk to each one, I want to invest in them. Then I talk to the next one, and the same thing happens. If I were to win the lottery — and I do dream about this — I would give money to our team. I would invest in the Community Action strategies so that we can support even more of the amazing organizations in our communities.
What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
I grew up in Caracas, and had never seen snow in my life until I came to the United States to learn English in Madison, Wisconsin. I met my husband Boris, a student from Bulgaria, in a Latin/dancing party I organized. What are the chances of a Venezuelan and a Bulgarian meeting in Wisconsin?!
Also, after 30 years of living in this country, I still think of English as my second language – I have this awareness that I’m speaking a second language. That’s one of the reasons I love working with Latinos – I can switch to Spanish and feel like I’m fully expressing myself.
Would you like to join the SVCF team? Check out our current job opportunities.