There will soon be a leadership transition at Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). The Board of Directors has hired LeaderFit to work with us to find LAYC’s next President & CEO. When the search is complete, I will step down from the role in which I have been privileged to serve for 30 years. We anticipate our new President & CEO will be on board by January 1, 2018.

This was not an easy decision to make. LAYC has been part of my life for 38 years. I still wake each morning (well, most mornings) eager to get to work. Yes, there have been headaches and countless challenges. One would think that helping youth would be easy; that is not always the case. But when I am greeted with “Lori, we had a record turn-out for Summer Youth Employment Program sign-up,” or “Check out Sarita’s video about her first day living with her daughter in their own apartment,” or “Did you hear that Michael will be the first in his family to go to college?” the headaches quickly melt away. I know why I stayed: 38 years, 365 days a year, LAYC changes lives.

LAYC began in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood in 1968. Mission and values were already in place when I walked through the door of a small row house in 1979. I found a vibrant grassroots organization filled with a bustling group of youth, volunteers, and staff working to improve the lives of a new immigrant community while creating a bridge to the city’s wider youth community. From that moment, I was hooked.

In the early years, I wore many different hats. Each prepared me for my leadership role. When the Executive Director position opened up in 1987, I applied. Much to my amazement, I got it! At that time, I could not have imagined where this new role would lead. Nor could I have dreamed that I would serve for so many years. LAYC became my second home in a community and city that I love.

I have seen LAYC grow into a respected regional organization with a national presence. As a multiservice youth development organization, we must always be one step ahead: analyzing the economic, political, and social landscape to determine upcoming challenges, new trends, and opportunities for low-income and immigrant youth. Job training and employment, education, social services, mental health, housing, substance abuse prevention, environmental awareness, arts, media, and recreation: LAYC’s menu of services has evolved to meet young people’s needs.

Since November, operating our programs and advocating for ethical policies has become more difficult-and more necessary. Our commitments to diversity, to respect for all, and to work towards a just society will be tested. But I am excited about the future. We will continue to build our presence in the District of Columbia and the region and to scale and replicate our Promotor Pathway® nationally. Our training academy will allow us to instruct a new generation of practitioners throughout the country in youth development best practices developed at LAYC.

Every day, I’m inspired by the thousands of young people who remain resilient and strong despite obstacles and barriers. I have loved working with each of them. Every day, I’m inspired by LAYC’s dedicated and determined staff who come to work filled with love and commitment to the youth, their families, and our LAYC mission. I am grateful to our Board of Directors, our foundation and corporate leaders, our government officials and partners, and our individual donors who have made LAYC strong over the years and who have had confidence in me. This has truly been a collaborative effort.

LAYC stands on its unique 50-year history. Having accomplished so much alongside our youth, staff, Board of Directors, and countless partners and collaborators, it is time for me to hand over this precious leadership role. A generation of new leaders is willing and able to serve. Our Board of Directors will work with staff representatives to find the right person to move LAYC forward while ensuring that our values, mission, and indefinable salsa remain. And I will continue to serve LAYC in a new role. I’ve got many ideas and would welcome your thoughts.

I am honored to announce that the Board of Directors has created the Lori Kaplan Legacy Fund as a supplemental effort to our Futuro Fund campaign. The Legacy Fund will ensure a smooth and successful leadership transition and reinforce our financial stability and capacity to respond to the changing external environment and the needs of the communities served and supported by LAYC. The Fund was launch on July 1st.

The best gift I could receive is your participation in the Legacy Fund so that the next President & CEO has the support necessary to carry LAYC’s mission into the future. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me, lori@layc-dc.org; Antonio Marquez, Chair of LAYC’s Board of Directors, tmarquez@eaglebankcorp.com; or Rick England, Chair of the Lori Kaplan Legacy Fund, reengland2424@gmail.com.

What a journey! Thanks to each and every one of you who have helped me to help so many more. Please stay in touch as LAYC and I take our next steps. I look forward to introducing you to our next President & CEO.

Lori M. Kaplan

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