When her son, Damion Gosa, was murdered in 2009, Cynthia Lazaro decided to fight back with love. She created a foundation in Phoenix to honor him and to help the community with programs aimed at preventing violence.
But Cynthia knew the mission of the Damion Gosa Memorial Foundation — to change the lives of at-risk youth through sports, arts, education, and mentoring — needed more than her own passion to thrive. It needed strategic direction, social media buzz, and organizational savvy, too.
Enter Wells Fargo Business Banking’s LaCheris Luster, who became co-chair of the foundation’s board.
Luster (pictured above) is a 2016 graduate of one of three leadership training institutes supported by Wells Fargo and run by Valle del Sol, a nonprofit focused on behavioral health, human services, and leadership training to equip diverse individuals with the skills they need to become community leaders.
“LaCheris has been an awesome asset,” Lazaro says. “I believe she will get us in order with her strategic planning for events and other outreach efforts, and she will definitely help us get up to date with technology.”
Personal and financial investment
Financial support and leadership training represent several ways Wells Fargo is helping Valle del Sol fulfill its mission to groom a new generation of diverse leaders in Arizona. Each year, the nonprofit’s leadership institutes in Phoenix, East Valley, and Tucson train nearly 150 residents on how to engage a community.
Valle del Sol’s flagship effort is the Phoenix-based Hispanic Leadership Institute. Founded in 1987, it has 1,300 alumni (including U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, whose district encompasses southern, western, and downtown Phoenix and part of Glendale) and programs ranging from 10 to 19 weeks.
Angela Florez, chief development officer and director of leadership programs for Valle del Sol, says program graduates like Luster — as well as Adriana Delgado, Telma Sanchez, and Travis Hardin from Wells Fargo — are helping change the community.
“These programs were started in response to communities being underrepresented and not having a seat at decision-making tables,” Florez says. “Now we have more people running for office; sitting on boards and other decision-making bodies; and serving in banks, nonprofits, the community college system, government, and more.”
Identifying leaders and opportunities
Luster, who joined Wells Fargo in March 2013 and is now a Business Banking relationship specialist in Chandler, Arizona, knew a teammate who had graduated from the Hispanic Leadership Institute. “I thought the institute could help me grow professionally. And it did just that,” she says.
Katie Campana, Wells Fargo Community Affairs officer in Arizona, says that institute classes feature one or two Wells Fargo team members every year. She says the company has supported the institute training costs and helped identify talent at Wells Fargo to apply.
“At the training sessions, community leaders share various sides of an issue so students get different perspectives,” Campana says. “It’s great for organizations like the Damion Gosa Memorial Foundation, which get new leaders and volunteers, and great for our company since it deepens our knowledge of the community and the issues we need to help address.”