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    Developing Leadership Skills for Latinx LGBTQ+: La Academia by AGUILAS

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    The ViiV Foundation did an extensive inquiry as to how an initiative for HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention is best developed. Interestingly, the largest request was to develop the leadership capacity of the Latinx LGBTQ+ communities throughout the U.S. and its territories. An extensive report of their findings in English and Spanish is published on their website and entitled “Here as I Am: A Listening Initiative with Latinx Gay and Bisexual Men Affected by HIV.”

    As a result of this effort, the ViiV Foundation created a funding initiative in 2021 that focused on providing leadership development and training that is suitable and effective. Since many in the current leadership are retiring or moving on to other activities, having cadres of persons who feel prepared to become leaders in their communities to address HIV/AIDS was a key component of this new initiative.

    In a competitive review of proposals, AGUILAS in San Francisco was successful in being selected and is funded for a three-year period. The leadership development and training program is called La Academia by AGUILAS. The program offers two types of certificates, one of which contains four three-hour workshops at a basic level; and another similar set of four three-hour workshops at an advanced level. The trainings are part of a collaboration that was created ten years ago through a two-year grant funded by Levi Strauss to AGUILAS. The collaboration consisted of AGUILAS, GLAAD, Alliant International University, and the Rockway Institute of Alliant.

    The four topics for the four three-hour workshops are: 1) basic financial knowledge, 2) effective strategies for advocacy, 3) legal awareness for Latinx, and 4) efficient communication tools with a focus on communicating effectively with the media. Experts in each of the areas provide the training. During the Fall of 2021, eight individuals completed the basic set of workshops and received a certification for completion of the basic level in a formal ceremony to include it on their résumé. It is hoped that participation in the trainings will motivate individuals to obtain advanced degrees and engage them in programs at various universities to increase the workforce pipeline. All classes accommodate training in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

    During the month of April, AGUILAS will offer another round of the basic level of training workshops to be held in the SF LGBT Center. All of the workshops start at 4 pm and end at 7 pm with the dates and topics for the April round of basic level training being: 1) Monday, April 11, on Basic Financial Knowledge; 2) Wednesday, April 13, on Effective Strategies for Advocacy; 3) Monday, April 18, on Legal Awareness for Latinx; and 4) Wednesday, April 20, on Efficient Communication Tools. To obtain the leadership certificate, participants need to attend all of the four different workshops. Individuals may elect to choose one or more of the workshops. Registration is required by calling the AGUILAS office to reserve a seat for each of the workshops being offered.

    During this year, AGUILAS discovered other important programs that further support the community. Two informational orientation sessions will be offered by AGUILAS. These informational workshops will accommodate those who primarily speak English, Spanish, or Brazilian Portuguese.

    One of these workshops offers an amazing opportunity to obtain a home purchase loan in the San Francisco Bay Area that was discovered by a particular financial broker. A specific lender now allows for the purchase of home-occupied residences that can be single family homes, condos, a Planned Unit Development (PUD), or a two-unit building. This specific lender only requires one percent down and provides a two percent grant to assure that the purchaser’s residence is owner-occupied for a three-year period with no mortgage interest charges (PMI) at closing. Qualified borrowers who meet specific income criteria and do not own property can participate. There are other programs available with varied regulations. AGUILAS can refer you to an award-winning realtor to locate a property for which participants could qualify.

    The second informational session addresses legal topics and will be conducted in partnership with Oasis Legal Services. This informational workshop will focus on three areas: 1) Asylum, 2) Residency, and 3) Naturalization. These sessions will be held at the SF LGBT Center, and more information about them can be obtained by calling the AGUILAS office at 415-558-8403 or by going to its website:

    All training sessions adhere to common protocols to prevent COVID-19 infection. This includes being vaccinated or having a negative COVID test prior to attending the training sessions.

    Eduardo Morales, PhD, is one of the founders of AGUILAS, where he serves as Executive Director. He is also a retired Distinguished Professor at Alliant International University and is the current Past President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.

    Published on March 24, 2022