Driven Devotion: Alumni Engagement Stories

Did you ever think a leadership development program would be the place to find your special someone? On this Valentine’s Day, join us in celebrating leadership and love with two of our alumni couples and their stories.

The Smithsonian Latino Center’s Young Ambassadors Program has fostered the next generation of Latino leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities, via the Smithsonian Institution and its resources since 2006. While the program’s focus is to cultivate and connect driven Latino and Latina change makers with professional development opportunities, the Smithsonian, and each other; some folks got really engaged, literally, ring and all.

Once upon a time…

In a Conference Room, A Proposal: Lynda and Guillermo Peralta (YA ’08)

It was June 22, 2008 when Lynda and Guillermo first met during their Young Ambassadors Program Washington Week. Their shared passion for then Latino arts and culture brought them to the Smithsonian Latino Center; however, according to Lynda and Guillermo, they did not have a love at first sight moment. Nonetheless, they kept in touch through the YAP Alumni Network.

Lynda and Guillermo

Lynda and Guillermo’s First Dance as an Engaged Couple, Smithsonian Castle.

Washington, D.C. brought them together once more. After moving to Washington for work within a year of each other, their friendship blossomed. On June 27, 2015, the night of the YAP 10 Year Anniversary Party, Guillermo proposed to Lynda where it all began, in the Smithsonian Latino Center conference room. That night, their first dance as an engaged couple was in the Smithsonian Castle. Since 2017, they have been happily married ever after.

Taking Connections to the Next Level: Jazmín Morales (YA ’09) and Carlos Hernandez (YA ’06)

It was Los Angeles, 2009. The Young Ambassadors Program Alumni Network, in its nascent stage, coordinated its first west coast Conexiones, alumni regional reunions to connect alumni across different cohorts. Little did they know that this was about to create a special conexion beyond that initial hello.

Carlos Hernandez and Jazmin Morales II

Carlos and Jazmín’s Concert Proposal, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Jazmín tells us, “We became friends and later reconnected in DC when I returned for my Post-Collegiate Seminar and he was there as an alumni speaker. We sat next to each other at the welcome reception at the Smithsonian Castle and the rest is history!”

On Christmas Eve 2017, Jazmín was performing on-stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, when Carlos emerges from the wings. He proceeds to get on one knee under the glitter of stage lights and faux snow. Jazmín said yes to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You, performed by her bandmates in Spanish. They have been happily engaged ever since.

Giving Back to the YAP Familia

Both couples have supported the YAP Familia in many ways. Guillermo and Lynda established the Peralta Correa Family Fund to support the Young Ambassadors Program Mentorship/Internship Initiative. Guillermo and Carlos served on the Inaugural Young Ambassadors Program Advisory Group. Carlos has also been a speaker for the Post-Collegiate Seminar. Jazmín has been involved in various capacities with YAP and the Latino Center, most recently as part of the Latino Center’s Education Advisory Council.

Your drive to lift our community and your devotion to each other warms our hearts. On behalf of all of us at the Smithsonian Latino Center and your YAP Familia, we wish you a lifetime of joy and happiness. ¡Felicidades!

The Smithsonian Latino Center and Ford Motor Company Fund have collaborated on YAP for the past decade, investing in education and careers in the arts, business and science and technology sectors, among others. During this time, over 235 students have participated in YAP and each has received a $2,000 stipend to apply toward college-related expenses. Ford Motor Company Fund is the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co.


Insider’s Look: The Post-Collegiate Seminar

32096111491_60f44ee7d9_oThe following was written by Olivia Garcia, YAP ’13:

As a Senior graduating from The George Washington University in May, I looked to the Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) for guidance in my job search. The Post-Collegiate Seminar is a weekend where alumni of the Young Ambassador Program (YAP) travel to Washington, D.C. to develop and hone the skills necessary to enter the workforce. Because I already live in D.C., I did not have to travel far to take part in this incredible opportunity. At the SLC, I saw both familiar and unfamiliar faces—one of the strengths of Post Collegiate Seminar is that it pulls alumni from different YAP cohorts, so I was able to get to know new people who brought different perspectives from the ones I had come to know during YAP 2013.

32178093936_82ec835e25_oAt the Post-Collegiate Seminar, the other YAP alumni and I learned how to write strong resumes, interview, network, set goals, and manage our finances. The first day, Hollan, Owner & Development Strategist of Champion Your Success, LLC, led a resume building clinic where he offered individual feedback on each of our resumes. Then, we all discussed proper etiquette for networking events. This discussion ranged in topics from the appropriate way to excuse yourself from a conversation to gender and power dynamics in networking. After this discussion, the YAP alumni and I were able to put what we had learned into practice at a networking reception. There, we were able to network with a wide range of Latinx leaders in the D.C. community and beyond.

31375150634_67237486b7_oThe second day of the Post-Collegiate Seminar, we discussed how to leverage our network in our job search and how to set both short-term and long-term career goals. We also learned how to prepare for a job interview. This preparation included mock interviews where the other YAP alumni and I answered interview questions in front of each other and gave each other feedback. Finally, we discussed the steps that follow and interview, including salary negotiation. On the final day, we were able to put our interview practice to use. We each had mock interviews with a Smithsonian employee. The person conducting the mock interview asked us questions that pertained to a job of our choice, and at the end of the interview, they provided feedback on our answers.

15622431_10209816398020852_1623733555180644499_nThe Post-Collegiate Seminar was useful because it allowed me to focus on skills that I had not learned in the classroom at my undergraduate institution. Overall, I found the weekend to be very informative and empowering. Both the SLC and my YAP colleagues reminded me of the strength and ambition that exists within the Latinx community. The SLC gave us a space to develop the skills necessary to enter the workplace, but more importantly, it also gave us a space to discuss our concerns, acknowledge our ambitions, and celebrate our Latinidad.