Governor Appoints Robertson Alumni to Advisory Council
It could be a moment out of a movie, two young leaders arrive at the Governor’s mansion ready to officially take on their new roles as appointees to an Advisory Council: then from across a crowded stairway during the photo op they see each other… two Robertsons doing what they do best, leading from a place of commitment.
“Did you see me first Pablo, or did I see you? I can’t remember!” Yesenia Pedro Vicente (Robertson ’13) laughed about the swearing-in. Both she and Pablo Friedmann (Robertson ’09) are among the newest members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic & Latino Affairs.
The Council was established in 2017 by an executive order and provides key recommendations to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, on legislative issues and priorities for the Hispanic & Latino community. Both Yesenia & Pablo were nominated for the committee because of their dedication and commitment to equity – and action.
“I want this appointment to be very action-oriented,” Pablo shared. “You don’t really see for lack of a better word, young talent and leadership in our community at such a significant level. A lot of us are just beginning to enter our professional careers, and here we are being nominated, and it’s a huge vote of confidence. But, when I got a phone call about the nomination, and was asked if I’d like to be on the Council and at first, I said ‘no, I don’t want to waste my time.’ I was very honest – I don’t want to just put paper on a bookshelf.”
“I counted and there are twenty-six individuals on this Council and they’re doers and go-getters at different levels, so for me it was pretty humbling to be appointed to this group,” Yesenia shared. “This is a two-year commitment, so by saying yes to the Council, I’m really saying that I’m committed to doing this for the next two years. There was this feeling of anticipation and excitement, but also the realization that if this turns out the way that I hope it does, it’s going to be work – so let’s get started!”
Both Yesenia and Pablo have goals related to education for the Council, and the people of North Carolina. “I currently work in college-access programs and I’m bilingual – so I don’t know which subcommittee I’ll be a part of yet, but I know I’d like to join the education subcommittee or the language access subcommittee because those are two areas where I know I can contribute whether its advocating for language access services across the state or with my knowledge as a teacher and now as a university administrator, how we can improve college access and retention for Latino students. That’s my hope to use my working knowledge and lived experiences to advocate in those two areas,” Yesenia shared.
“There are some things we need to do to move forward here as a State,” Pablo added. “I work in public education and here in North Carolina we have a system to determine in-state tuition for students called the Residency Determination System. It’s used by all of the community colleges and the UNC system and if you’re the United States citizen child of immigrant parents, even if you’ve lived here your whole life, it flags you as out of state. That’s something we can control at the state level and it needs to change. We’ve changed it in the past for military families and for homeless students. And I look forward to using my position on the Council not to just put recommendations on paper, but to actually use the full power and legitimacy of this position to really make sure we’re moving the ball forward.”
This isn’t the first time a Robertson has been appointed to the Council. Nancy García Villa (Robertson ’26) joined as a senior in high school. She was appointed after serving as a page for the Governor. “I was the youngest person on the Council and I felt I was contributing an important perspective. Now, I’m really happy to see this shift in the Council make up and to see a younger demographic, because in general the Latino community and policy related to it, is just very under recognized, and when we are it tends to be very monolithic but that doesn’t mean that we all share the same perspective especially across different generations,” she said.
Nancy’s term as a voting member ended this September, however she’ll stay on in an advisory capacity on the legislative affairs subcommittee. Her commitment is something that she’s continued to develop as a Robertson. “I was always a very community-oriented person, but I feel like I didn’t really think about the intentions behind community as much as we reflect on here as a Robertson – questions like who am I? Why am I doing what I’m doing, and is the way I’m acting corresponding with my intent? That’s something I struggled with my first year on the committee, but then as a Robertson my second year on the Council, I was able to see the connections and how things on the committee aligned with my passions and it helped me be a lot more intentional and finding that voice and courage to actually speak out in places where you’re the youngest one there.”
For Yesenia and Pablo, they’re excited to dig into the work of the Council as fellow Robertsons. “It’s exciting to work with another Robertson and it’s really nice to have that connection going in. Pablo and I have seen each other in the same circles for years but haven’t worked super closely together before. Pablo, maybe you felt this way but I feel like when I was in undergrad it wasn’t about accumulating titles as a leader. I felt like my class of Robertsons cared more about getting things done than receiving the recognition. And then later it would come out that we were a Robertson and people would be like ‘yeah that makes sense,’” Yesenia said.
“Yeah, Yesenia raises some really interesting points, I like to get the work done too and the work will speak for itself, that’s always been my philosophy. The core Robertson values for me are a sense of integrity and collaboration, especially going into this Council. You’re one vote, so you have to build relationships, you’ve got to collaborate if you’re trying to get anything done. If you don’t hold true to those values then you’re spinning your wheels whether it’s this Council or any other council, right?”
It’s advice that Pablo offers to any young leader – stay true to your values and what you truly care about. “When you’re in college the number of variables you’re playing with are very few compared to when you’re in your twenties, or thirties, or beyond. Hold that list of values close to you because the calculus of those variables can start to change for very good reason. Do good work wherever you’re at, whatever you’re doing, whatever your name is tied to – do it at a high level, with a high level of integrity and let the work speak for itself and that will continue to open more and more doors.”
Nancy has some advice for Yesenia and Pablo as well, “They’re both on the Council because of the work that they’ve done, they always think about the community and the most important thing at the end of the day is fighting for the people you love. So be loud and proud while you do it, there’s no judgment when what you fight for is out of love. That’s the biggest thing I learned from being on the Council. Be loud and proud when you’re fighting for community, that’s all that matters.”