Georgia’s fastest growing talent pool is its Hispanic population. By 2030, one in five Georgians under 24 will be Hispanic. With that in mind, a new leadership development program was created to build a larger and stronger group of Hispanic leaders ready to serve their communities and organizations.

The Cultivating Hispanic Leaders Institute (CHLI) was designed and implemented in 2015 through a partnership of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

The second class of leaders graduated from CHLI on June 23 in Atlanta. The 19 rising leaders took part in the six-month long program that concentrated on servant leadership and issues impacting the Hispanic Community.

“We need Hispanic leadership everywhere,” Leticia Willis, president of Willis Mechanical, Inc., told the graduating class.

She encouraged participants to be bold as they take the next step.

“Find what you like to do, what you are good at and get involved,” Willis said.

During the six sessions, participants developed new leadership skills and explored educational, social, political, and economic issues affecting the community, and discussed strategies for change. Each participant also identified a personal leadership challenge and met in peer consulting groups to address the challenge.

“Expand your network of influence. Be committed and consistent,” said Henry Kelly, director of corporate relations for Georgia Power, which has been a key supporter of CHLI. “This is the beginning for you to go and do great things.”

CHLI’s impact is already being realized.

“This experience has made me a stronger voice for our students and our families because sometimes their voice isn’t heard,” said Lynnette Aponte, a 2016 CHLI graduate and community outreach specialist at Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Another graduate said that the experience has guided him in determining the next steps in his leadership journey.

“I have become an engaged, active leader ready to support the Hispanic community,” said Guiomar Obregon, 2016 CHLI graduate and CEO of Precision 2000. “I gained knowledge and a network of friends to make this happen.”

CHLI has also catalyzed other efforts of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“Now that we have two classes of graduates, the chamber has created new programming to expand the program’s success. There is a civic literacy initiative starting in September and a Civic Leadership Institute planned for 2017,” said Tisha Tallman, president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will continue to partner with the Fanning Institute to implement CHLI. Plans are already underway to recruit a third cohort of leaders.