Alicia Guevara, first Black and Latina CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, on being an ‘only’: ‘There was no blueprint for my leadership

In 2019, Alicia Guevara made history by becoming the first female CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, the nation’s first and city’s largest youth mentoring program that serves 5,300 young people.

Guevara, who is Black and Latina, recognizes her CEO appointment is as historic as it is vital today to represent New York’s youth given Covid’s outsized impact on Black and Latino families.

Roughly 93% of young people served by BBBS of NYC identify as a person of color, with 38% identifying as Black or African American, 36% identifying as Latinx or Hispanic, 10% identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander, 8% identifying as multi-racial and 1% identifying as another racial group.

Investing in young people of color through mentorship isn’t just a moral imperative, Guevara says, but crucial to developing a future workforce and leadership reflective of the people who make up the country. A recent Brookings Institution analysis of 2020 Census data shows that children of color now comprise more than half of the nation’s total youth population, and youth of color will make up more than half of the nation’s labor force by 2030.

Guevara says she champions investments in youth mentorship because of how it’s benefited her throughout her life, starting with guidance from her parents, who immigrated to the Bronx from Cuba, as well as teachers and neighbors who supported her.

Here, Guevara, 49, shares with CNBC Make It how she confronts being an “only” in the room, the key to finding a mentor at work, her best career advice and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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