On February 11th it was announced that Central Valley Senior Director of Programs Yammilette Rodriguez was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. These awards, “recognize and support individuals who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues” and provide a $250,000 investment in the work. Yami has been with YLI for nearly 10 years now, overseeing offices in Fresno and Merced, as well as programming in Orange Cove, Madera, Kerman, Reedley, Selma, and more. With 13 youth programs reaching over 250 youth in an average week, the Central Valley work is grounded in Yami’s dynamic leadership style and tireless efforts to improve the lives of young people. We asked Yami to reflect on what this award means to her.
This award would not be possible without the hard work and sacrifice that my immigrant parents have made for me. My story is like that of so many of the young people in our programs: our families and communities have shaped and supported us. This accomplishment is for my parents.
It’s also for my daughters. I’m lucky that in my everyday work I get to see young people’s energy and passion, skill and hard work. Because of this I have hope that all the talent and insight that my daughters have will find opportunity to take root in Fresno and create a Fresno where all voices are heard and everyone has a chance to thrive.
This award is great because it will allow me to continue the work that I believe in so deeply: mentoring young people in the Central Valley to become leaders that change our community for the better. I was lucky to be mentored by women in my life who have shaped me to be who I am today and I want to continue to pass that on.
It’s time that Fresno, the Central Valley and all of California include youth voice in all our discussions to determine solutions to the challenges we face. Thanks to the James Irvine Foundation for investing in youth voice so that everyone is heard in creating our shared future.