Yulkendy Valdez is a junior at Babson College studying business management and entrepreneurship. She moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 10, and ever since, she became more aware of the socio-economic inequalities that exist in today’s society. She is very active in leadership roles on campus from serving as Community Service Chair for both Black Student Union and ALPFA (a Latino Business organization) to working directly with multicultural programs at her college to facilitate initiatives around diversity and social entrepreneurship. She is proud to be a Resolution Project Fellow as well as a recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation-ESA LOFT Fellowship for her work around inclusive leadership and gender equality. She was admitted to the Public Policy Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2013 and has spent her college journey traveling on immersive programs to Rwanda, Uruguay, Argentina, Russia, India, China, and most recently throughout Europe.
- Issues Areas:
- Education Justice
Campus: Babson College- Babson Park, Massachusetts
Fellowship Class Year: 2016
Blueprint: Project 99
Project 99 is a leadership development company that develops immersive experiences that help the Fortune 500, leading service firms, and other organizations bridge the leadership gap by attracting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent. We are a movement by millennials for millennials focused on diversifying leadership from the bottom-up. By 2030, Black and Latinx leadership must be 30% in order to better reflect fast-changing demographics. As a YP4 Fellow, Yulkendy is focusing on achieving education justice and developing inclusive and equitable schools and workplaces. Through her inclusion work, she also indirectly works with other organizations trying to create opportunity for immigrants as well as enable trans and queer liberation. Project 99 aims to be a global think tank for the creation of equitable and inclusive schools and workplaces where anyone regardless of their identity has equal opportunity to access leadership positions within top organizations. We believe that when underrepresented students or young professionals are able to see someone who looks like them in leadership roles, it gives them the confidence and validation to believe that they can get there as well. By convening diverse talent in immersive experiences, we give them the recognition and visibility they need to navigate complex workplaces where they are often the minority. Through Project 99’s programming and lifelong network, our community gets the opportunity to receive the support and space they need to empower each other, to be seen, and to be heard. Through this approach, we bridge the leadership gap by investing in future leaders from underrepresented backgrounds and giving them the opportunity to envision a future where they are at forefront of driving economic and social impact across top organizations. Thus, in order to achieve this, Yulkendy’s objective is to build a curriculum focused on identity development and the implication of race and gender bias in the workplace. This holistic curriculum will focus on 3 pillars: Reflection, Collaboration, and Action.
Featured Fellow Spotlight
What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?
Yulkendy Valdez (YV) : I heard about YP4 through Ernesto Villasenor. Through Facebook, I got to see his activism and the way he keeps sharing his opinions—unyielding and unapologetic. That something I really admired and I wanted to emulate as an activist in training as a sophomore in college. The first year, I applied I did not make it because my work was mainly abroad in the Dominican Republic, but I joined the community at the right moment and have not looked back since.
What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
YV: I am the co-founder of Project 99 (www.project99.co). We are a leadership development company focused on diversifying leadership across top organizations. Our immersive leadership experiences support the Fortune 500, leading service firms, and other organizations bridge the leadership gap by attracting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent. We are a movement by millennials for millennials focused on diversifying leadership from the bottom-up. Project 99 has executed leadership development programs in the Dominican Republic, Chile and Mexico. We are shifting focus to the U.S. market as it is more imperative than ever that we create safe spaces for underrepresented students and professionals in our schools and workplaces.
What are you passionate about/what motivates you to public service?
YV: I aim to be an advocate and activist for social justice because I have a passion for life and people, and I want everyone regardless of their identity to live a dignified and happy life. I want to build businesses that scale social impact and shift our world to becoming more equitable and inclusive. My immigrant experience and the experience of my family enabled me to see the world in a schism: broken and uneven. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, I got to experience the social and economic gaps that exist across racial divides
What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
YV: My professional goals are to be a change-maker and thought leader in the education and social entrepreneurship space. I have chosen this career path as a means to achieve my goal of creating more leadership opportunities for people of color within top organizations, so we can design a world that works for all of us and not just those that are privileged in our current system.
Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?
YV: The YP4 Fellowship has given me a safe space to connect with diverse young people. It is truly a beautiful community that supports and believes in each other while at the same time motivates one another to take risks and engage in difficult organizations. I was able to take the best practices of this community and adapt it to my own work.
Tell us about a skill you learned through YP4 that you evoked when you were faced with a challenging situation.
YV: I learn about the importance of self-care and community-care. It is important to foster a healthy balance as we do this work, because it is long-term and it requires an incredible amount of stamina and resilience.
What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?
YV: I would say to launch forward. Do not try to check all the boxes, fundraise all of the money, or get all of support on your side before you start to do your work in social justice, instead act now and follow your gut. You will learn a lot, have a lot of fun, and create something that you never imagine.
Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?
YV: YP4 is the mirror of the society I want to see—unapologetic, proud, and all-welcoming of everyone that becomes part of it, and that has given me tremendous energy to keep fighting for what is good and right.
Where do you think your YP4 training will take you in the future?
YV: I am working on creating my own version of YP4 through my work with Project 99, and learning from one of the best trainings has definitely aided in my professional development.
What do you want to be remembered for?
YV: I want to play a role in creating a much more equitable and inclusive society where anyone regardless of how they identify has the opportunity to live a dignified and happy life.