The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) was created in Los Angeles in 1972. Frank Lopez, ALPFA senior vice president of corporate development and foundations, says that the organization’s goals have been consistent throughout its existence: to empower the next generation of Latino professionals and lead them to success.
“Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the overall population, and this is reflected in the business and public sectors,” he says. “A large proportion of millennials come from the Latino community. At ALPFA, we work with students and professionals, making sure that they have access to our industry network of over 72,000 members from all over the country.”
To La Isla del Encanto and Back
Lopez’s childhood was truly multicultural—he was raised with both languages and with one foot in each culture.
“My parents came from Puerto Rico and settled in New York before I was born, but when I was around eight years old, they decided to return to the island,” he says. “I studied from third grade to high school in Puerto Rico and became totally fluent in Spanish.”
The island also was where he realized the importance of community in daily life and understood the vital role that familia extendida played in individual success.
“In New York, we lived for several years in a building without knowing our neighbors’ names,” he recalls, chuckling. “But in Puerto Rico, we had not only our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but also the godparents, los padrinos y las madrinas, and a large number of friends that became just like family. I returned to the States to go to college, but I have carried that sense of community I learned in la isla del encanto throughout my entire life.”
An Executive Vision
Lopez’s career has been a successful combination of corporate and nonprofit development, with an emphasis on diversity. Early on, he was a program management executive with Nortel Networks Corporation and implemented a $100 million portfolio of telecommunications projects in the Latin American and Caribbean markets. He later served as a senior management executive in New York, where he led the development of more than 2,000 voluntary operated residential settings for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“My professional outlook in life is to find ways of expanding the opportunities for communities that are traditionally considered underserved,” he says. “This principle has guided me since I was a college student working with community organizers. Afterwards, I studied urban planning and did graduate work in healthcare administration, always with that equity goal in mind.”
During his six-year tenure as president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), Lopez focused on developing services to benefit Latino entrepreneurs.
“Education and professional development are the most effective ways of advancing our people,” he explains. “Better education equals better jobs, more family stability, and better living conditions in general. This is also our mission at ALPFA. We empower each other to help the entire community.”
“That defines who we are,” Lopez says. “Yes, ALPFA is a great professional development organization, but it goes beyond that—members help each other succeed in the corporate world while also establishing strong, personal bonds.”
Networking and Mentoring
Every year, ALPFA hosts a national convention. Attendees focus on leadership, professional development, and networking with some of the top Latino talent in the country.
“Last year, the convention in New York City was a true success,” Lopez says. “We had record attendance, with over 3,700 people. Around half of them were graduate students and the other half were professionals.”
Delta Airlines donated travel vouchers that made it possible for many of them to attend the convention.
“We have great sponsors,” Lopez says. “And we greatly appreciate their help, because trying to find the resources to offer more outreach and training is perhaps our biggest challenge.”
ALPFA’s greatest satisfaction is to see young Latino entrepreneurs succeed in the private and public sectors.
“Now that I have gray hair, I am so happy and proud to see these young people that I met five, ten, or fifteen years ago occupying leadership positions in the C-suite and corporate boards,” he says. “They are working closely with the next generation and becoming mentors themselves.”
Mentorship is, in fact, a cornerstone of ALPFA’s philosophy.
“We encourage our members to offer hands-on leadership building experience to students and young graduates,” Lopez says. “I always tell them, ‘Keep the door open for those coming behind you, as those who came before did for you.’”