Juliana Ospina Cano—a former member of the Conexión Américas staff, before moving to Washington, DC to champion Latinx educational achievement at UnidosUS—returned to Conexión Américas in 2019 to serve as Executive Director. Picking up the torch from Co-founder Renata Soto, Juliana stepped in to lead a widely-respected organization with a strong leadership team with years of experience in creating a community in which Latino families can belong, contribute, and succeed. She focused on learning from and supporting the team in this mission, and on continuing to grow the depth of leadership across the organization.
In the past two years, she has accomplished that and much more. Juliana, along with the Board of Directors and staff, ensured team growth, reviewed systems and procedures, fundraised, and ensured that growth was consistent with the organization’s cultura and values. 2020 pushed the organization toward one of Juliana’s main goals: to be even closer to the Latinx community that makes Conexión Américas. Together with local and national partners, the team responded to natural disasters and a pandemic. Conexión Américas distributed over $1.5 million in assistance to keep families in their homes, distributed over 32,000 food boxes and prepared over 21,000 meals at Mesa Komal for those experiencing food crises, and hosted COVID-19 vaccinations at Casa Azafrán (efforts that continue today). Conexión Américas welcomed over 11,000 voters to Casa Azafrán and cemented our mission by strengthening its core institutional programs in a virtual setting. Conexión Américas joined with school leaders, teachers, and students to ensure immigrant-origin families had the tools, knowledge, and human connection to face the educational challenges and opportunities of 2020-2021. Collectively, Conexión Américas celebrated the most successful annual fundraisers to date, including this year’s record-breaking Cafecito.
While navigating the past two years, Juliana also faced personal health challenges, and has decided to focus on her health. Juliana will be stepping down at the end of June, knowing that the work of the past two years has shown that Conexión Américas has the best team in Tennessee, and the organization is financially stable, programmatically strong, and committed to its mission.
Following Juliana’s announcement, Conexión Américas’ Board of Directors carefully considered the options and voted unanimously to elevate Senior Directors Martha Silva and Tara Lentz as Interim Co-Executive Directors. Tara and Martha have been leading the organization in many ways for more than 10 years each, and were key members of the leadership team that welcomed and guided Juliana for the past two years. Based on their commitment to the organization, their depth of knowledge and strategic vision, the Board of Directors has committed to supporting and nurturing Martha and Tara as Interim Co-Executive Directors. The Board of Directors is also grateful to Co-founder and Finance Director José González for his mentorship and guidance; he will continue with the organization and lend that same support to Tara and Martha.
Alexandra Spredemann, President of Conexión Américas Board of Directors, said “The Board of Directors is so grateful for Juliana’s leadership and commitment to the mission. Her devotion to building the team has brought us to a place where the organization is stronger than ever, and the Board is fully invested in the leadership of Martha and Tara to continue that success. Throughout her tenure, Juliana has been fully committed to caring for the team, and we’re glad to support her as she takes time to care for herself.”
“As former Board President, I was thrilled to bring Juliana back to Conexión Américas in 2019. We couldn’t have asked for a better Executive Director to lead the organization through that transition, from which we emerged even stronger,” said Terry Maroney, Immediate Past President of Conexión Américas Board of Directors. “I was also proud to see the Board of Directors quickly rise to the task of thoroughly vetting options for leadership as she steps down. We are fully committed to supporting and nurturing Tara and Martha as they grow into their new roles as interim Co-Executive Directors.”
Tara Lentz joined Conexión Américas as an intern in 2006 and currently serves as Senior Director of Strategic Growth. Martha Silva began as a volunteer in 2010 and is the current Senior Director of Economic Opportunity. Tara and Martha have worked hand in hand with previous and current organizational leadership in the areas of strategic planning, fundraising, advocacy, and program development and implementation. Their leadership has been instrumental in bringing Conexión Américas and Casa Azafrán to the role they play in our community today. Both have served the organization from the ground up, giving them deep knowledge of our community, Conexión Américas’ culture, and the organization’s strategic goals.
Conexión Américas is a Nashville-based nonprofit organization established in 2002. Our mission is to build a welcoming community and create opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed. Every year, we assist more than 11,000 individuals and their families in their desire to start businesses, improve their English, help their children succeed in school and go to college, and become an integral part of Nashville’s social, cultural and economic vitality.
Conexión Américas is the lead partner of Casa Azafrán, a nonprofit collaborative at the gateway to Nashville’s International District that is home to Conexión Américas and nine partners. conexionamericas.org