Only 26 years old, Sylvia Butanda has done more for empowering young Latinas and their families than some folks have working a lifetime in non-profit. She joined Latinitas in 2014 as an editorial intern writing for Latinitas magazine and then became an after school club leader. Founder and CEO Laura Donnelly noticed a natural leadership and asked Sylvia if she would consider managing all after school clubs. That launched her into a four-year career as Latinitas’ Program Director where she helped design in-person and virtual spaces where Hispanic girls feel safe, supported and encouraged to express themselves. She brought Latinitas to new heights and corners of the country including new programs in the Rio Grande Valley and Northern California, planned and executed eight of Latinitas’ 15 all-day Chica Conferences focused on themes like coding, design-thinking and starting a business and grew clubs and camps to 18 Austin public schools, all Title 1, more libraries and 6 public housing sites.
That is why, it is truly exciting to announce Sylvia Butanda’s promotion to be Latinitas’ first-ever Deputy Executive Director, where she will lead Latinitas’ programs, resource development and operations in a more intensive and intentional way. Sylvia Butanda will be one of just a small handful of Latinas in non-profit executive leadership in Austin.
“She’s a leader with vision and has an easy way about her to engage different companies to draw them for the better good. As a grandmother who brought my granddaughter to Future Chica, Latinitas’ last conference, one, I was so impressed with the magnitude of the event — both my granddaughter and I were like “wow!” look at all these Latinitas all in one room and the community working alongside them to make them great leaders. She brought companies and professionals together not to just give their technologies or expertise, but to give themselves as mentors and tell their stories. It was inspiring. How well she communicates with people and shares her passion — that spills into other people. “ said Endrica Hardwick Galvan, Latinitas board member, IT Program Mgmt Sr. Advisor at Dell.
Sylvia has been building her leadership skills in and outside of Latinitas for years. She recently graduated from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Austin Leadership Program for 2019. Named 1 of the Top 7 Hispanic Leadership Programs in the USA, HAL, a program that generates millions in economic impact in Central Texas. A Brownsville, Texas native, Sylvia attended the UT Austin School of Journalism where she held the position of Vice President of the University of Texas Hispanic Journalist Texas Zephyrs Service Sorority. Upon graduation in 2015, she worked for several publications in the Austin area and held several internships in communications, marketing, and digital media production. In 2018, she received the Out of School Time Champion Award from Austin’s Learn all the Time Network for her work empowering girls in Central Texas and was a presenter on getting youth into tech at LULAC’s Latinx in Tech Summit at Capital Factor. In 2019, she was a judge for SXSW EDU’s Student Startup Competition, a panelist for Latinas in Tech’s on mentorship and the commencement speaker for the 2019 graduating class at Harmony School of Excellence in Bastrop.
One of Sylvia’s best qualities is her ability to engage so many different people and entities to help move the needle on empowering youth of color from Austin’s STEM, digital inclusion, girl empowerment, and Latino eco-systems as well as dozens of global companies. She brings them all together to create better programs, provide relevant mentors and grow reach at Latinitas.
Estevan Aviles, SXSW’s Gaming Festival Programming Specialist was recruited two years ago to form the Latinitas Game Chica Conference committee. The event gathered the most Latina and other girls of color ever together to code a video game of their own at VRBO’s, then Homeaway’s, headquarters in the Domain.
Aviles explains, “Sylvia Butanda is an exemplary leader who has done incredible work in expanding Latinitas role in the Latino community. After having seen Sylvia empower Austin’s future workforce of Latina women through the Chica programs which she has pioneered, it’s exciting to hear what she’ll do next as deputy executive director because I know it will be nothing short of phenomenal.”
Danny Lucio, Google Fiber’s Government, and Community Affairs Manager put it best: “Sylvia is on the ground doing the work that gets girls into STEM and has shown a huge amount of leadership to do that. This promotion feels like the recognition of the work she has already been doing to serve her community.”