Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leadership lived: Vicente Valtierra brings Hispanic Grassroots Leadership Development Program to UIS

University of Illinois Springfield graduate student Vicente Valtierra has a passion for helping other people. It’s that passion which led him to bring a national Hispanic Grassroots Leadership Development Program to UIS.

Valtierra attended the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) Conference in Chicago where he heard about the national program model, which is designed to bridge the widening gap between citizens and elected officials. He knew the program was something that was needed at UIS and was determined to make it happen.

“I got the students together, talked to both sides, the officials and students, got everything going and here we are,” said Valtierra.

His efforts have resulted in a series of meetings with Springfield city leaders, Sangamon County officials, and UIS campus leaders throughout the fall semester. During their first meeting, the group of Hispanic students met with Springfield Mayor Michael Houston and other leaders.

“They’ve been there and done that,” said Valtierra. “They were here before us, so they know the ropes. We can definitely learn from them.”

Valtierra grew up in Gary, Indiana and made a few stops at other colleges before transferring to UIS. For him, it was the Computer Science program and the right-sized, supportive community that UIS offered which brought him to Springfield. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UIS and is now working to finish his master’s in Computer Science.

“(At UIS) you get more personal attention versus an auditorium setting with 300 students where you’re just a number,” said Valtierra. “You actually feel more like a person at UIS and you get a lot more attention and help.”

He says that UIS is a great place to learn about leadership because of the abundance of opportunities available to motivated students.

“UIS is great training grounds, mostly with small groups,” he said. “You have to start small. It’s hard to be a leader and stand up in front of a crowd of 300, so you get to start here with 10-20. It’s a good training ground for leadership.”

Valtierra was also instrumental in planning a student leadership fair at UIS for nearly 300 high school students. The event featured nationally prominent motivational speakers, workshops on preparing for college, financial aid/literacy information, and leadership development.

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