Creating Opportunities and Empowering People–One Board at a Time
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a 30-day observance that extends from September 15 to October 15 and is marked by celebrating histories, cultures and impact made by Americans whose ancestors originated in Spain, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. According to the National Hispanic Heritage Month website, the holiday began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and was extended to a month by Ronald Reagan 20 years later.
The holiday was enacted into law in 1998. The observance began on September 15 to mark the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The following days mark the independence of many other Latin American countries.
United Way of King County honors National Hispanic Heritage Month by spotlighting board member Sandra Madrid, Ph.D., who recently was named as one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s Directors of the Year for 2022. She is one of two United Way board members of Latino heritage to be named Director of the Year, along with Fred Rivera, executive vice president of the Seattle Mariners.
Esther Madrid was what people in faith circles called a prayer warrior. She embodied a belief so passionate, so reflective in her love for and service to people, that when she prayed, she all but convinced folks that she had the Almighty on speed dial—and that making it on her prayer list was an inside track to getting your supplications heard.
Sandra Madrid, Esther’s daughter, remembers a friend being granted a spot on the prayer list when he had nowhere else to turn for his troubles. “About a year and a half later,” Sandra said, “my mom said, ‘Is he okay now, because my list is getting too long, and I have to take some people off.’”
Well before she died five years ago at age 102, Esther instilled that passion in Sandra, who went on to become assistant dean for students and community development at the University of Washington School of Law. Sandra’s desire to serve the marginalized and create pathways for people of color has enabled her to develop lists of her own.
As the first person from either side of her family to graduate from college, Sandra knows firsthand that college students from marginalized communities often carry with them the hopes and prayers of others who could not attend. Sandra has made it priority to ensure those students succeed.
Currently, Sandra is the longest serving member of United Way of King County’s board of directors, and as a member of the board’s governance committee, Sandra helps compile lists of prospective board members. But she, herself, lists other boards that have enabled her to help improve the lives of others.
• Sandra has served on four national boards, including minority affairs chair of the Law School Admission Council. In that capacity, Sandra led efforts to drive more students of color into the legal profession by reaching out to them from as early as junior high school. She helped cultivate a mentoring program that matched law school students with attorneys and judges from their background. “I was the first one who overspent my budget of a million dollars, and I was really proud of that!” Sandra said.
• Sandra served on four local boards, including chair of Leadership Tomorrow, a Seattle-based organization that cultivates leaders in the Puget Sound region while fostering healthier and more resilient communities and advancing equity of all residents.
• Sandra has been a member of three legal boards, including the Washington Minority and Justice Commission, whose work includes juvenile justice and building bridges between courts and local communities. The commission says it seeks to change the narrative around juvenile justice from corrective and rehabilitative to trauma-informed and restorative.
“I learned so much from my mom, her passion and her outreach to help people, going out of her way to be of assistance to individuals and just caring about people,” said Sandra. She can look back and see how her own outreach has impacted students, including many she’s never met. She helped open doors to more UW Law School students of color (who make up 45 percent of the school’s class of 2024 enrollment). She helped provide funds to a program at the University of New Mexico that supported Indigenous students. She helped African American law school students—who often struggle finding mentors from their backgrounds—gain opportunities to be mentored by local Black leaders, like former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice.
“There is so much to do in the communities,” said Sandra, who added that serving on boards demonstrated “what is possible with a commitment from a really great group of individuals who want to do the right thing and stimulate that energy and synergy to do things in the community.”
She said the same for United Way’s board. “Before joining the [United Way] board, I was co-chair of a Seattle [organization], where I was co-chair of distributing dollars in the community. I really got involved in that, and it was wonderful to read the proposals that people were sending in to help their communities.
“I got involved with United Way,” Madrid added, “because of that and seeing the great work they do.”
Though United Way board members are limited to two three-year terms, Sandra has ex-officio membership, which means she is not locked into a term and is asked to return at the end of each year. Sandra said, that prior to joining the United Way board, she was advised by friends who were former board members, including one who cautioned her about joining.
“She said, ‘I don’t know if you really want to go on this board because it’s a working board,’” said Sandra. “But that didn’t scare me. I think that’s why we get on boards—to help.”