EPIC leaders

Members of the first EPIC Leaders Institute gather for a class photo.

A social impact organization formed last year, Economic & Policy Impact Center (EPIC), has launched its first Leaders Institute to help people prepare to foster change in Long Beach.

There are 25 people in the first class, which started last week with a weekend retreat. Executive Director Alyssa Gutierrez said the Leadership Long Beach organization helped facilitate that weekend, but EPIC and the Leaders Institute are focused on different goals than LLB.

"EPIC is an advocacy organization working to effect change through policy, civic engagement, and leadership development," Gutierrez said. "The EPIC Leaders Institute is just one program in our leadership focus area — we also have a university-level leadership program called EPIC Fellows. Developing the next generation of diverse leaders is one leg in our three-legged stool, and part of a larger strategy to build the community capacity needed to create a more economically equitable city."

EPIC also acts as an advocate by supporting legislation, ballot measures and voter education programs that have a direct transformative impact across communities with an ultimate goal of equitable neighborhood engagement.

This institute will last six months, providing lectures, workshops and projects, a release said. The goal is to develop "professionals into effective leaders that have a comprehensive understanding of the local social and economic landscapes and the core competencies related to social and economic equity."

Members of this class come from all professional sectors of Long Beach — public, private and nonprofit. It is made up of 75 percent people of color, reflecting the demographic diversity of the city.

Gutierrez said that EPIC's institute will focus on leadership development through the lenses of equity- and trauma-based community issues. The emphasis on racial and economic equity has spread through the City Council and the community in the last couple of years, with disadvantaged sectors seeking a fairer distribution of resources, creating better results for all. Addressing inequity is one of the primary reasons EPIC was formed, founders have said.

The trauma-informed portion of training addresses the reality of minority communities, Gutierrez said.

"Developing leaders through a trauma-informed lens means that we are taking into consideration the ways in which past personal and societal traumas have effected their outcomes and ability to be their best self," she said. "Psychological research tells us that people who grew up in impoverished communities, communities with high levels of violence, racism, sexism, etc. have additional psychological barriers to success than people who grew up in healthy, safe environments."

Gutierrez added that not all of the class members have experienced that trauma, but understanding its existence is important to leadership in the community.

Members of the first Emerging Leaders Institute class are: Devin Ablard, Anika Akhter, Nicole Ballard, Steven Contreras, Cindy De La Cruz-Brown, Brandon Dowling, Sydney Duran, Julius Franklin, Melissa Kyle Guy, Rebecca Kauma, Josue Lopez, Abigail Mejia, Erik Miller, Keyona Montgomery, Ennette Morton, Sara Pol-Lim, Brandon Price, Joni Ricks-Oddie, Eric Romero, Mariela Salgado, Suely Saro, Adrianne Sears, Stacey Slevcove, Masina Tuufuli and Vaandearlyn Vong.

For more information about EPIC, go to www.epicsocal.org.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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