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Hidden Gems: Meet Jen M. Torres of SimplyLead

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen M. Torres.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born and raised on the island of Puerto Rico and lived on a former coffee plantation with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and sisters. My parents taught me early on that to make my way in the white-dominant world, I would need to speak Spanish and English. When I moved to the United States for college, despite being fluent in two languages, I was asked over and over to prove that I was just as intelligent and capable as my white peers.

SimplyLead LLC is my brainchild. I met Simone, another queer woman of color, through work in the D.C. non-profit world. In our first few conversations, we learned that we shared a passion for diversity and inclusion and more than that–antiracism and equity. We had parents who impressed upon us the value of education as a way to access opportunities.

We had both seen and lived the uphill battle that was being a person of color in a white-dominant society. We wanted to create an intervention that was more than conversation. We wanted to start courageous conversations around equity that would focus on making a real action-driven change in schools and organizations across the nation.

We started Simply Lead so we could bring our Intensive specifically to schools and have also branched out to nonprofits, finance, tech, and any other organizations that want to create liberatory spaces. We want to help schools and organizations not just be more inclusive, but to unlearn systemic racism, dismantle those systems, and co-design new ways of educating and existing that center those at the margins.

Our ultimate goal is to create a safer school community that empowers and uplifts children of color instead of expecting them to conform to white-dominant culture standards. I serve as our Chief Executive Officer. I have worked in education for over fifteen years. I’ve served in various roles ranging from educator to Director of Outreach and Engagement to Director of Program Strategy.

I intimately understand the workings of school systems. I have experienced firsthand how an inequitable education system can negatively impact students of color. My time as a community engagement director in schools across Colorado means I am able to communicate effectively and empathetically with families, students, and administrators. At SimplyLead I serve as our master facilitator.

While working as an educator I honed my skills in curriculum design and implementation, the pedagogy of being a facilitator, and intrapersonal dialogue. I hold a Bachelor in Music from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, a Masters in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from CU Boulder and have recently finished a one-year intensive program in Advanced Leadership from Harvard University.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think my greatest challenges have been finding my voice in antiracism work as a Latinx queer woman who recognizes my white-passing side as well and the complexities that brings to the work that I do. This work continues to move me into understanding that I am either perpetuating white supremacy or actively acting against it at all times. Another challenge is working and pushing through imposter syndrome, and reclaiming my space, and my voice in the fight against racism in America.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about SimplyLeadLLC?
SimplyLead was started by two women of color who believe perpetual systemic inequities trap potential and mute expression. SimplyLead believes in a dynamic, co-designed, action-driven approach that centers our common humanity in order to address these inequities. SimplyLead seeks to inform, educate and support organizations focused on creating antiracist spaces and empowering marginalized communities.

We are dedicated to interrupting the cycle of systemic inequity. We work with you to unlearn the roots of systemic racism and to co-design our modes of operating to center those at the margins. We provide the strategy for change and the implementation plan. We shift the conversation into action.  At SimplyLead we know the value of converting intention into action.

Our solutions are focused on delivering actionable recommendations and supporting your team in implementing tangible change. We offer organizational solutions that provide any organization with the knowledge and the tools to create systemic change.

We serve every school and every organization through a tailored approach. Whether that’s through year-long professional development training, one-time workshops, equity audits, or coaching we come in and support where the organization feels they need it.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Even when it feels hard, keep doing it. Every connection matters and each one can lead to a greater adventure and connection. Always offer to support, volunteer, or shadow the folx that inspires you. Uplift those around you as often as you can, your light doesn’t dim in their presence, it shines even brighter.

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Image Credits
Robin Kenyetta

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