Volunteer Spotlight Interview with Gladys Pedraza-Burgos
Chief Operating Officer, Ibero-American Action League Inc.

How do you drink your coffee?

I liked mine with flavored cream, something sweet like hazelnut.

Can you talk a little bit about the work you do at Ibero-American Action League? Why you got involved and how long have you been working there? 

Well, I’ve been involved with Ibero my whole life; my Dad was a founding member so it’s always been a big part of my life. In high school, I worked part-time and volunteered whenever I could. Before I started my current position, I was on the Board for about 7 years. Currently, I am the Chief Operating Officer and have been for just over 5 years. I’ve done so much with Ibero, it's better to ask what I haven’t done!

We have heard so much about your commitment to Rochester, specifically with the Hispanic community and the resettlement of displaced Puerto Ricans from Hurricane Maria. What has motivated you to get so involved with the community?

I think it’s my upbringing. Both of my parents valued people who worked hard, and who were courageous. They've instilled their strong values in me, not only by teaching me but by their actions as well. I was able to see first-hand how hard my Dad worked at making Ibero a meaningful organization. His strong commitment and dedication really impacted my life. Plus, I have a really good reminder to "Be the Change" when I come into work and see the Ibero mural outside our offices. It forces me to ask myself every day: Am I doing enough to make a change? (Ibero mural pictured above!)

You’ve done a ton to support Causewave’s work, including being an influential member of both the Every Minute in School Matters and Unintended Pregnancy Reduction steering committees. But what volunteer role sticks out as most rewarding?

While I have really enjoyed my time working on the Unintended Pregnancy Reduction Campaign (and I am so excited to see our hard work pays off), I have to say the most rewarding role has been working with the Every Minute in School Matters campaign.  As the first person in my family to graduate high school and college, I am a huge proponent of education. I believe that the right education will pull people from poverty and into prosperity. Therefore, I see, the issue of student absenteeism as a very critical issue. Parents simply weren’t aware of the effects of missing even two days of school. This campaign is focused on educating and encouraging parents to get their kids to school. Since the beginning of its launch, I have seen a real shift in attitude towards a child’s attendance and I am so happy to have been a part of that work.

Are you working on any projects right now that you are particularly excited about?

Wow, there is so many it’s hard to pick just one. However, I am really excited about working with The Children’s Agenda, a local nonprofit that advocate for kids. We have partnered with them to ensure Rochester City School District (RCSD) provides an equal education to all its students, no matter their background. In the upcoming school year, there will be 600 new kids and we are working with RCSD to help prepare the schools for the influx of these students. Ibero and The Children’s Agenda’s main role will be to advocate for these new children.  

The project I am most proud of is, the resettlement of over 3,000 displaced Puerto Ricans. After Hurricane Maria, Ibero led local relief efforts, which meant coordinating with 25 other agencies. Many Puerto Ricans were coming over through November, December and January, and as you can imagine, there was quite an adjustment period (especially with the snow). Our job at Ibero was to help these people build a new reality and settle in. We provided everything from food, shelter and healthcare providers. 

Do you have any thoughts or advice for other people who volunteer with us or in our community?

Rochester is a community that is not only culturally diverse but also has a variety of life stages. We have people who are retiring, people who are in the middle of their careers, and people who are just beginning their professional journey. Volunteering provides a different avenue for each of those populations and has so many benefits. It allows you to step out of your comfort zone both professionally and personally, it allows you to live out your values, and I believe it's the most rewarding job there is. Volunteering is a way to show you care about others; it’s a way to stay connected and show your gratitude for your ability to share your knowledge. It gives you the ability to know you have made a real difference in the community. Rochester might be cold, but our community knows how to keep everyone warm!

If you could sit on a bench in a beautiful woods, who would you like sitting next to you on the bench?

Well, I would want someone who’s talkative; I don’t just want someone who is just going to sit there and not say anything! I think I would like to have my Dad, he passed away recently and he loved nature so I would love to be able to sit next to my Dad and just talk for awhile. 

What might readers be surprised to know about you?

Oh! That’s an easy one, I love Star Trek! I just love the creativity and the connections between our world and theirs. They struggle with similar social problems but learned how to embrace the diversity. My dream is that we have a world like that, a world where we celebrate and appreciate what makes us unique. 

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

Live long and prosper!