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GALEO Institute for Leadership Graduated 22 New Leaders in the State of Georgia

Graduates Join 725 Alumni of the GALEO Institute for Leadership

Press Release


Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO, 678.691.1086

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 (Norcross, GA) – GALEO graduated 22 new leaders from the GALEO Institute for Leadership (GIL), which held a graduation reception on Saturday, November 14, 2020 at The Nett Church in Lilburn, GA.  The graduation was held with strict safety measures in place to protect against COVID19 by keeping graduates in their cars, listening to the graduation program over zoom, wearing masks and social distancing.

This is the 23rd group of graduates resulting from GALEO’s leadership development efforts. The total number of GALEO Institute for Leadership alumni now stands at 725 people from across the state.

This year’s cohort marks a commendable commitment to service in their community by completing the program during a challenging pandemic and a contentious 2020 election. The cohort is made up of a diverse set of professionals who are teachers, organizers, service workers, entrepreneurs, legal professionals, students and much more. GALEO commends the class for their perseverance and their commitment through not only the completion of the program but an additional five service projects all focused on the 2020 Presidential Elections.

GALEO Institute for Leadership graduates heard inspiring words from GALEO Chief Executive Director, Jerry Gonzalez and GALEO Coordinator for Operations & Communications, Polo Vargas. The cohort also heard from two of their own graduating class, Nancy Vicente and Claudia Valencia.

Jerry Gonzalez took a moment to remind the cohort that Georgia would not be where it is today, breaking records in voter turnout, without the efforts of every 2020 GIL participant who took it upon themselves to advocate and get out the vote through their projects.

Nancy Vicente reminds us that through the exposure of new experiences and opportunities we will more often than not see people reflect the same sense of duty we feel to our community. She says, “Through this experience I have learned that leaders aren’t the people giving speeches, winning awards, or getting credit for their work. Leaders are the people willing to do the groundwork, the people willing to organize movements and step back from the spotlight to make sure people are focused on issues, not people.”

This year’s class also challenged GALEO’s program to continue pushing for more in language accessibility. Claudia Valencia, co-creator of Platicando Politix, delivered her speech to the graduating class in Spanish. As part of her group project, her teammates created a bilingual podcast in the middle of a competitive 2020 election, exposing community members to leaders in our backyard through educational charlas. She encouraged the 2020 cohort to continue seeing through our collective commitment to the needs in our community.

Credits to group members: Jasmin Alvarez, Karen Perez, and Orayka Alexander

Polo Vargas, closed out the graduation through only what can be best captured in a quote by saying,” ‘The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He or she is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.’ This was said by President Ronald Reagan. Let your actions inspire others; motivate your community to participate civically. We are all sparks (or “chispitas”) that have the potential to light up this world. Let’s light it up as GIL alumni.”

This year’s graduation would not be possible without a cohort of 22 GALEO Institute for Leadership facilitators trained and certified by UGA’s J.W Fanning Institute for Leadership. GALEO thanks them for their years of commitment to the leadership program.

The graduation follows a serious commitment to a year-round program that develops basic leadership skills while also exposing the participants to other community leaders and potential opportunities for continued leadership development.  The participants were connected with via zoom presentations to the following community leaders:

  • Antonio Molina Esq., Heidari Power Law Group & COO for Consultorio Medico Hispano
  • Brenda Lopez, State House Representative
  • Christian Bello Escobar, UNG Director of Migrant Services
  • Cassandra Johnson, CC ALB
  • Diana Vela, Hispanic Organization Promoting Education – Director of Leadership Chapters
  • Dax Lopez, State Court Judge of Dekalb County
  • Donna Arriaga Edmonds, Associate Director of Programs at Beyond 12
  • Elizabeth Silva, Field Coordinator for GALEO
  • Gabriela Esperanza, Empreza Tax – Middle Georgia Small Business Owner
  • Genny Castillo, Blue Institute
  • Polo Vargas, GALEO Operations and Communication Program Coordinator
  • Hector Gutierrez, Council member for City of Forest Park
  • Jaime Rangel, FWD.US – Georgia Immigration Associate
  • Juliana Henao, GALEO Leadership Council
  • Jeniffer Chow, GALEO Civic Engagement Coordinator
  • Jennifer Zenteno, GALEO Leadership Development & Citizenship Coordinator
  • Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO Executive Director
  • Johnette Brown, Director, Housing – Wealth Building and Community Development, Urban League of Greater Atlanta
  • Katherine Narvaez, Vice President of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway
  • Katherine Vega, Project Manager for Global Payments, Inc.
  • Maria Palacios, Community Advocate & GALEO Leadership Council Chair
  • Marisol Estrada, Kuck Baxter Immigration
  • Rebecca Pool, GALEO Leadership Council
  • Samuel Aguilar, – State Director
  • Zulma Lopez, State House Representative-Elect, Georgia House of Representatives

The GALEO Latino Community Development Fund has implemented the GALEO Institute for Leadership to focus upon the leadership development of the Latino community across our state. As part of the GALEO Institute for Leadership, GALEO formed a strategic partnership with the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute to expand and develop our joint efforts for the Community Leadership Program.

The graduates dedicated more than 40 hours during 2020 to complete eight modules, additional presentations and a community group project. In addition, this GALEO Institute for Leadership Class of 2020 represented a diverse class with participants from various counties in Georgia:

  • Cherokee
  • Cobb
  • DeKalb
  • Fayetteville
  • Forsyth
  • Fulton
  • Greene
  • Gwinnett
  • Hall

The graduates were also encouraged to engage with the GALEO Leadership Council (GLC), which is made up of alumni from previous GIL sessions, as well as active GALEO Members.  Several of the graduates are already serving leadership roles within the GLC and plan to contribute to significant plans in place for 2021.

This leadership program was made possible in part by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Sapelo Foundation, Southern Partners Fund, University of Georgia-Fanning Institute, Georgia Power, State Farm Insurance Company, GALEO and individual donors.

Recruiting will begin on Friday November 20th for the GALEO Institute for Leadership class of 2021.  Check back with us this Friday for updates and open enrollment for the 2021 sessions and the application process at

For other questions regarding the upcoming GALEO Institute for Leadership, contact Jennifer Zenteno

Pictures of the graduation are available upon request and are posted on GALEO’s Facebook page.


GALEO’s mission is to increase civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino/Hispanic community across Georgia.

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