Many have recently learned that IFR’s Executive Director, Dr. Estela Garcia, will “graduate” from IFR at the end of 2020. Just the mention of Estela’s departure sent ripples through the Latino community and beyond. Her 35-year tenure at IFR, with 15 of those years as the agency’s second Executive Director in over 40 years, Estela’s imprint on the San Francisco Chicanx/Latinx/Indigena community is incredibly deep and undeniably lasting.
When Estela joined IFR, the organization had one address with approximately 12 employees. Today, IFR staff exceeds 100 people who work in its main building and 5 satellite venues. Under Estela’s leadership, IFR achieved ownership of its building at 2919 Mission Street and the agency evolved into a multi-service organization, expanding services to include Indigena Health & Wellness, Roadmap to Peace, and SPARK. This is a minimalist view of Estela’s accomplishments. If we were to list the numerous collaborative bodies, kitchen cabinets, coalitions, and community efforts in which Estela has played a key role, it would require pages…and pages…and pages.
Perhaps more significant than her organizational achievements is Estela’s community presence. She is respected as a wise elder, a spiritual mentor, and a kind-hearted counselor. Whether it was in response to community unrest, the shooting of a young Latino, or the need to advocate for funding for our community, Estela’s humble tone of voice, gentle words, and clarity of purpose helped resolve conflicts, rebuilt bridges, and restored optimism.
Estela' contributions to IFR and the Latino community are immeasurable. The organization and the community are forever grateful and stronger because of her leadership.
Which brings us to the leader who will succeed Estela. IFR's Board of Directors initiated a succession planning process in 2018 that was intended to identify a leader would would preserve the agency's legacy while introducing innovation needed to meet today's new challenges. We are thrilled with the results.
IFR is excited to have Gloria Romero assume the role of Executive Director in January 2021. Having worked in the San Francisco Latinx community for 25 years, Gloria has learned from many of the community veteranos, including Estela. She is earnest, has tremendous nonprofit and program experience, and exudes authenticity.
As the current Director of the Roadmap to Peace Initiative, Gloria is already familiar with IFR’s programs, philosophical tenets, and cultural approach to health and wellness. Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gloria spent her childhood years living in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Gloria is one of five girls born to Mexican parents. Her life trajectory is, in itself, a beautiful depiction of how community can indeed groom new leaders.
Attending San Francisco State, Gloria completed her undergraduate degree in Social Work, with a minor in Women’s Health. She readily attributes her desire to give back to her mother who always sought ways to help those in need. Upon leaving college, Gloria interned at the Real Alternatives Project (RAP) where Estela’s partner, Roban San Miguel, served as her supervisor. Immersed in community work, RAP hired Gloria upon completion of her internship where she worked at Casa de los Jovenes. IFR was a collaborative agency working with RAP. It was around that time that Gloria first learned about IFR.
When RAP closed, its various programs and services were split up in a heartbreaking community process. Hoping that something would arise to keep RAP alive, many, including Gloria, worked without pay for a while. When it was clear that RAP would be closing, various community organizations came forward to continue RAP programs and hire many of their staff.
When Gloria left RAP, she went to work at Mission Girls, one of RAP’s partner agencies, to implement its afterschool and summer program. Eventually, it became clear that the YWCA wasn’t the right home for Mission Girls, and Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) stepped up to house the program. For the next 16 years, Gloria served the community, first as its Girls Services Director, and later as its Youth and Family Services Director.
In her role at MNC, Gloria was a natural to participate in the development of Roadmap to Peace. She had participated in months of planning and was a member of the Steering Committee. So, when she was ready to move to the next chapter of her life, Gloria applied for, and was hired as RTP’s Initiative Director, which is where she has been for the last three years. Because the RTP Initiative staff is housed under IFR, she has become well versed in IFR’s vision, mission, principles, and goals.
Gloria fully understands the tremendous shoes she has been entrusted to fill: “IFR’s legacy, and the legacy of Concha and Estela, are so special that it excites and humbles me all at the same time. So many people invested in me to develop my leadership and skills to help me get to this place. Through a special program that MNC was affiliated with, they paid for me to go to graduate school to get my Master’s degree in Public Administration. Roban gave me an immersion course in community work, and these six months learning from Estela is priceless.”
We are all confident that the community’s tremendous investment is Gloria will serve IFR well.
Her story is already a success for which we can all be proud.
Only one other time has IFR’s leadership baton been passed from one person to the next. In an organization where tradition, ceremony, and cultura are central, Estela’s graduation and Gloria’s new role hold great meaning.
Congratulations Estela and Gloria! We are happy for you both!