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Joe Aldaz

'Service before self.” It’s a principle Joe Aldaz lived by during his time in the Air Force, and carried with him into the civilian sector.

Since his retirement (in 2004, as a lieutenant colonel), he’s served his community in various enterprises, from charter school education to the defense sector to veterans’ support services.

Currently, Aldaz is a manager for Onward to Opportunity (O2O), a program run out of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. The free career training program is available at 20 locations across the country. Aldaz has been with Fort Carson’s program since its inception in 2017.

O2O provides industry-recognized professional certifications and support services to transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses. Participants can choose between two career tracks, information technology or business management; both consist of four days of in-person instruction, followed by 12 weeks of online coursework.

In addition to his work with O2O, Aldaz is president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Business Council, which provides local Hispanic small business owners with the support and resources they need to succeed. Recently, he spearheaded a new initiative, the Adelante Leadership Institute, an eight-month fellowship for 25 emerging minority leaders.

“I think this is very important,” said Aldaz, “because if we want to have a voice, and advocacy and influence in the community, we have to begin to develop our emerging leaders, especially in our Latino community, to understand how to become more civically engaged, to have the tools to be able to sit on nonprofit boards.”

Even though Latinos drive economic growth and are one of the fastest growing populations in the state, they are underrepresented in leadership and executive-level management. The goal of the Adelante Leadership Institute is to train and support emerging Hispanic (and other minority) leaders for careers in the public and private sectors.

Aldaz believes we can trace the opportunity gap back to our education system: “Across our state, the two groups who underperform the most in state standardized tests are Latino and Black students. And that’s been a decades-old problem.”

He continued, “Until we fix that problem, we are never going to have the pool of candidates to be those emerging leaders, for C-suite positions, because [those candidates are] far and few between from my perspective. If we have more qualified candidates, there are going to be more [minority candidates] to select from.”

Ultimately, said Aldaz, inclusion is about creating accessible opportunities: “Do we have pathways for other underserved and underrepresented groups to have seats at the table of influential groups like nonprofit and corporate boards, seats on city council and in government?”