Introducing Raquel Palma
Board Highlight Interview
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What is your connection to Via were you first introduced to the organization?

I first became aware of the organization as a job applicant in 1994. I had worked in the private sector for many years and was interested in learning more about the non-profit world. I ended up getting a job with Via (then it was called Los Ninos) as the Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper and worked with the organization for 19 years. When I retired in 2014, I continued to stay connected to Via by volunteering in the office a few times a month. I was thrilled when the Board of Directors invited me to join the board and participate at an even deeper level!

What is it about Via International that inspires you?

What inspires me about Via is the people! Elisa (Via President) and all of the staff members are so devoted and passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. Anyone who engages with Via can feel this energy immediately! Whether a student on a volunteer trip, or a participant in one of Via’s many community development programs, that person can feel the staff’s commitment to their work in support of the community. In fact, the staff at Via refer to everybody who is involved with the organization (from donors to volunteers) as “the Via family,” and it truly feels like one!

What is your greatest passion?

Beside my family and love ones, my greatest passion is color. I am attracted to all colors in all forms. I love colorful art, food, clothing, shoes, you name it! What is interesting is that the Via offices are located in Barrio Logan which is one of the most colorful neighborhoods of the city and which also happens to be where I grew up as a child! Chicano Park with all of its beautiful colorful murals are just a stone’s throw away from the office, and Via as an organization is very involved in efforts to preserve and restore murals in and around Chicano Park. I love being able to be involved in a community organization that is well respected in this neighborhood and that is working in support of the people and colorful artistic traditions of this community. It is a perfect fit!

What is on your bucket list?

My bucket list is made up of places I would like to travel! I would love to visit Morocco...I envision it as an exotic and mysterious place that I definitely need to see and experience! I am hoping to do some travel as a Via board member as well, as the organization expands it volunteer travel locations. I took a Via trip to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico (a previous location where Via used to work) when I was on staff many years ago, and it left a profound impact on me. I want to support our efforts to provide similar experiences for our is such an eye-opening experience that I believe should be part of every person’s journey.

I understand members of the Board recently made a trip to Costa Rica in preparation to receive students there. Unfortunately I missed that trip but look forward to harnessing my passion for travel in support of the organization and its long-term goals.

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Via Board?

My goal as a Via Board Member is to help direct our efforts cohesively and work as a team. Via is an amazing organization that does so much with such a small staff! The Board is an important resource for this small organization, adding capacity to minimal staff to achieve great things! One of the things I bring to the table is my 19 years of experience and knowledge working inside of the organization. I hope to connect my deep understanding of the organization with the short- and long-term planning at the board level, to bridge the day to day operations with strategic goals and implementation.

How do you describe Via to others?

Via's mission and goals are complex and diversified. When I describe Via to others, I try to do it in simple terms by stating what Via does. I tell people that Via programs provide education to women and men who otherwise would not have access to opportunities to learn and become self-reliant. People also love hearing about Via's Educational Travel program... it is something that they can relate to and understand right away. I love talking with others about Via’s work in the community and am happy to continue my volunteer service with the organization at the Board level.

Do you have any last thoughts or things you would like folks to know about you?

People often perceive me as being quiet or shy but I’m not! The rest of the Board is learning this very quickly! Ha Ha! I’m just kidding! I already know many of the other Board members very well and I look forward to getting to know the rest of the board just as well, and working together for the benefit of the organization and the community. Thank you!