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The YWCA Announces Latina CEO, Alejandra Y. Castillo

by Alexandra Campbell Howe /
Image: YWCA-Women's March January 2017 1
YWCA attends the Women's March in Washington, D.C., January 2017.YWCA USA

For over one hundred years, the YWCA has filled the role of support network for communities throughout the United States. And now, a Latina will take over the helm as its CEO.

“This is an organization that has a 150-year-old history and experience both working on social justice issues but also delivering critical services throughout communities,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, in a phone interview with NBC News on the day her appointment was announced.

Image: Alejandra Y. Castillo
Alejandra Y. Castillo, new CEO of the YWCA USA.YWCA USA

There are currently more than 2.2 million members who participate in the various programs offered by YWCA USA. Castillo’s goal is to ensure she reaches women, including those who speak other languages such as Spanish, making them aware of the organization's various locations and resources, and ensuring YWCAs are responsive to individual and family needs.

The YWCA currently offers programs by its more than 215 network associations, including workforce development, after-school programs and STEM education. Programs also provide information and education on issues from domestic violence to race.

"I recognize how more and more young women are in need of organizations like the YWCA,” she said. She hopes to "create a platform that is going to propel them to be able to engage and to prosper in a 21st century economy.”

Image: YWCA-Women's March January 2017 1
YWCA attends the Women's March in Washington, D.C., January 2017.YWCA USA

The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Castillo defines her career as working on behalf of communities of color and women in particular.

No stranger to public service, Castillo formerly served as national director of the Minority Business Development Agency within the Department of Commerce. She was also Executive Director of the National Hispanic Bar Association and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She has worked on five presidential campaigns and received numerous awards and recognition including being named one of the “Top 100 Influential Latinos in the U.S.”

Castillo credits her parents, who emigrated to Queens, New York in the 1960's and opened their own business, as instilling in her the awareness of how to tap into various resources and local organizations in order to help them forge ahead in a new environment.

Image: YWCA-Women's March January 2017 3
YWCA attends the Women's March in Washington, D.C., January 2017.YWCA USA

Castillo cites the growing number of Latina entrepreneurs as one of the demographic groups that stand to benefit the most from resources such as those offered by the YWCA. “For Latinas, this organization in particular is going to be critical, and I am looking forward to spearheading it.”

With race issues amplified in recent weeks, Castillo sees her new role and that of the organization as a pivotal one to ensuring that the voices of the people they serve are amplified on a national level.

“The ongoing debates that are happening both in Washington and throughout the country are critical. So we are making sure that the YWCA is at the forefront of these conversations, but also making sure that they are elevating the needs and concerns of what is happening on the ground.“

Looking ahead, the Washington, D.C. resident sees her new tenure as a personal calling and as an opportunity to expand the role of the organization in order to help change lives and empower Latinas and women across the country.

“We have to tap into the multitude of resources to not just strengthen our experience in the U.S., but to also help us thrive.”

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