RDF’s 4 Emerging Latino Servant Leaders
Count On Us! For over 20 years, Raza Development Fund has proudly provided financial capital to a Latino-serving organizations and Latino-owned small businesses because we know Latinos are a great investment. As we partner with UnidosUS on the Count On Us AZ campaign to share the contributions of Latinos in Arizona, we are highlighting four of RDF’s emerging Latino servant leaders. While we all share a passion for creating better opportunities and equitable access for our Latino and low-income communities across the country, these four are prime examples of the talent and dedication that make up our Familia.
Amanda Sanchez, Director of Pacific Northwest Region
After navigating through her education as a first-generation American and English Language Learner, Amanda became passionate about supporting quality education options for our communities.
“My parents knew they wanted me to get a good education, but as immigrants they didn’t know how,” she explains. “If I knew what I know today, I would’ve gotten a full ride scholarship and would not have struggled throughout my college education.”
She joined RDF’s Phoenix Office in 2011 as an Investment Associate in the Education Finance team working to support schools and educators with investments that would enable and empower students to meet higher standards of learning achievement. Amanda enjoyed creating opportunities for students, and the more she did, the more she thought of the need for quality educational opportunities in her home state of Washington.
In 2017, Amanda helped launch RDF’s Pacific Northwest regional office making RDF one of the first CDFIs to provide charter school facility financing in Washington and expanding our organization’s impact further. Today, Amanda works diligently bringing all of RDF’s financial solutions through the Pacific Northwest and across the country focusing on not just education, but also affordable housing, healthcare, social services and small business initiatives.
“There’s no question that education is key to improving economic mobility, but there’s more to that. You have to look at it with a holistic approach. You can’t be successful at school if you don’t have meals on the table, if you don’t have a roof over your head, if you can’t get proper medical care,” Amanda says. “Our underserved communities face many challenges; we need to make sure we address them by offering an array of services and supports. It’s the only way that we can truly improve economic mobility for children and families.”
Pedro Chaves, Deputy Chief Credit Officer
Born in the US, and raised in Colombia, Pedro enjoys affecting positive social change through his work at RDF.
For over 15 years, Pedro exercised financial expertise in the corporate space. He joined the RDF team in late 2020 as a Senior Credit Underwriter with a mission to use his knowledge and expertise to serve underserved communities.
“I’m a big supporter of helping all communities that are in need. I am motivated by the idea that we can live in an equitable society where rights such as healthcare, housing and education are readily accessible to the populace, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or faith,” Pedro says. “My biggest focus has been to do my best for the right people – using my financial knowledge to benefit the larger community.”
As soon as he joined, Pedro became a critical part of RDF’s team diving in as we supported our small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program loan process. He was quickly promoted to Deputy Chief Credit Officer dedicated to working with RDF’s investment professionals providing financial analysis and finding creative solutions for the communities we serve.
“Being a servant leader is about collaborating with kindness and accountability which is ingrained in all aspects of our employment at RDF,” he says.
Eugenia Vivanco, Director of Community Impact and Funding
Growing up on the border, a bicultural and bilingual space, inspired Eugenia’s interest in community development forever shaping her mission and perspective.
“I grew up on the Mexico side of the border but went to school in Texas. Every day, I would cross the bridge able to access resources and social capital that would help me later in life. But I would see people trying to cross to give their families a better life and it was so difficult for them. I was always confused how one person can access all these things and another person can’t when there’s not much of a difference between us,” Eugenia explains.
Recently, Eugenia read an article from inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman explaining her focus to create an exciting for everyone.
“That really struck me. Many times, the narrative is how we can get low-income families to a survival level, but the reality should be how we can create a more exciting future for our future generations,” Eugenia says. “How can we help low-income families have the resources that will allow them to dream, allow them to succeed and not just survive?”
After working for international nonprofit organizations, Eugenia joined RDF a few years ago to lead impact data, impact outcome measurement and evaluation efforts and soft capital fundraising. She finds and implements creative ways for RDF to show the value, or the impact, of its investments.
“With impact management we can rethink how we look at outputs and outcomes for the financing that we provide and really show how our investments move the needle for our families,” Eugenia says. “I would love for our work to be an example for how we can change the narrative of why Latinos and low-income families deserve to strive and not just survive.”
For Eugenia, changing the narrative is not simply a dream. She is dedicated to connecting with groups like the Impact Frontiers Cohort and the Opportunity Finance Network discussing ways research and evaluation can shed light on the needs of community development.
Adrian Ruiz, Deputy Chief Investment Officer
For Adrian, servant leadership is innate.
“It was instilled in me from a young age by my family. Others forged a pathway for me, and I feel that I have a moral obligation to pay it forward,” Adrian says. “I have a strong passion for empowering historically underserved communities that will allow for upward, economic mobility and create opportunities for others to achieve and attain their aspirations.”
Adrian served over 12 years in the K-12 education sector ending that tenure as Executive Director of Espiritu Schools, a charter school network located in South Phoenix. He joined RDF in 2018 with a desire to impact more families and communities on a broader scale. Today, he serves not only as the Deputy Chief Investment Officer but also extends his education expertise as head of RDF’s Education Finance practice. He was instrumentally in leading RDF’s COVID-19 Education Research & Intervention study last year, an initiative to better understand the effects of school closures caused by the onset of the pandemic and the most effective ways of supporting students to combat unfinished learning, learning loss, and other high need areas.
Adrian supports and mentors our investment professionals to find meaningful ways to deploy capital across the country, as such, he is ingrained in almost every project in which we invest.
“Every project has its own merits and a special place in my heart for the impact they have on their respective communities,” Adrian says. “We empower communities by providing tools and resources to local organizations that best know the needs of the people they serve and can be intentionally responsive to those needs.”
Every day, and with each task, Adrian enjoys the shared values and passion of the RDF Familia.
“My favorite thing about working for RDF is the familial atmosphere and servant leadership culture that has been cultivated within our group of talented professionals. It’s extremely refreshing to be able to work with individuals who are deeply passionate about our work of serving communities and view it as a vocation and not just a job,” he says.
Stay tuned with us as we spotlight more RDF Familia and other community leaders who are passionate about empowering Latinos.