Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago to give keynote speech

The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute is pleased to announce Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago as the keynote speaker for the 12th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference.

Richmond, VA- Gloria Bonilla-Santiago is a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor, Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She also directs the Community Leadership Center and is the overseer and Board Chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School. 

As a leading scholar, researcher, speaker, and international cross-cultural training consultant, Dr. Santiago brings over 25 years of experience in program development, fundraising, strategic planning, and leadership training. She writes and speaks widely on the areas of community development, public policy, education, migration, diversity management and, organizational leadership. She is a recipient of the L’Oreal Paris Women Of Worth award, a national recognition that honors 10 women for their exemplary and transcending service to communities.  

Dr. Bonilla-Santiago’s record of service and the impact of her work on poor children/families, minorities, and community are exemplary by any standard. She is a passionate and enthusiastic educator, who has focused her professional acumen on helping people to be able to become self-reliant citizens through education and professional development.  Her work on behalf of children and families has resulted in the development of a model charter school in Camden City that today serves 1,400 students in grades from infants to -16th and has become a hub for serving the families of these children through a number of LEAP portfolio schools in Camden City. Dr. Santiago has built five LEAP schools in Cooper Street, from ELRA (Early Research Academy to LEAP STEM- Science Technology and Engineering. Her educational model and pioneer work are breaking grounds in the field of education nationally and internationally. She has fundraised over fifty million dollars to finance her projects. She is known as the “Patron saint of Cooper Street”.

"There are so many parallels between Dr. Bonilla-Satiago's work and Dr. Harris's legacy," Fatima M. Smith, Associate Director, and this year's conference co-chair said.

"We were attracted to Dr. Bonilla-Santiago's commitment to social justice through education and professional development and her work with families and children. Education, development, and family were important values to Dr. Harris as evident in her role as a social worker affecting change in the Greater Richmond area and advocacy for equity and excellence as an administrator at VCU. Like Harris, Dr. Bonilla-Santiago values the mutual relationship between a community and an institution and seeks opportunities that provide micro and macro level benefits, building sustainable futures." 

Dr. Santiago’s work through the Rutgers –Community Leadership Center is broadening and deepening the leadership base in New Jersey’s communities and beyond. She spearheads a number of signature projects with local and national impact in areas of Education Innovation and School transformation, conflict resolution, diversity management, organizational behavior, leadership development and community development.

"Anytime we have the chance to highlight a speaker whose body of work exemplifies values consistent with those of Dr. Harris, the Institute, and VCU we consider it win for our conference attendees," Smith said. 

Dr. Santiago is the author of numerous articles and three books: The Miracle on Cooper Street: Breaking Ground and Barriers: Hispanic Women Developing Effective Leadership and Organizing Puerto Rican Migrant Farmworkers: the Experience of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey. She is also a blogger for US World News, Huffington Post, and a commentator for ABC, NBC, and CBS News on issues of Education.

The 12th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference will be held on Friday, November 2, 2018. This years theme, The Power of Collective Action: Shifting the Leadership Culture, examines the experiences of all women and provides a game plan for capitalizing on their unique strengths for communal action.

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