Headquarters of nonprofit on Young Street looks back and forward as it prepares to celebrate its third year

Photo Credit: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - Jasmine Garcia and Julio Solano, both volunteers from Woodburn, touch up the mural on the north wall of the Capaces Leadership Institute last week.The Capaces Leadership Institute is celebrating its third anniversary, and Woodburn is invited.

The party, planned for 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the institute’s headquarters at 356 Young St., will include dinner and a wealth of information about the impact the nonprofit organization and its team have made over the past three years.

The event will feature personal stories from participants in the center’s Leadership Transitions courses and TURNO youth program — which, according to Capaces, has the distinction of a 100-percent success rate of its students graduating high school and seeking higher education.

“TURNO students know they are university talent, and we are here to equip and enable them to reach their maximum potential,” Capaces Executive Director Laura Isiordia said.

Ron Mize, director of the Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement at Oregon State University will be the event’s keynote speaker.

Mize is a longtime supporter of Capaces and aided in the development of the PISCA (Project: Impacting Social and Community Advancement) program evaluation project. Isiordia said Mize and his staff are collaborating on the PISCA project, which will “shape the future of the institute.”

She said that the goal of PISCA is to strengthen the institute’s current programs and help identify and develop programs that will benefit its network and the greater Woodburn area in the future.

She highlighted the implementation of the PISCA findings as one of the top goals for Capaces’ fourth year, as well as expanding TURNO, the Leadership Transitions program and other courses.

“Our kids in this community need more opportunities,” Isiordia said. “Not everyone can achieve their dream of a four-year education because of the financial burden. I would really love to see more options for our kids and be able to offer more resources to the kids in our community.”

She said that, in the past three years, about 460 people have taken at least one course at the institute.

“I think what we have done is very profound,” she said. “And we’ve gotten attention nationally.”

One session of its Leadership Transitions course earlier this year was able to bring in 40 students from across the country as guest participants, she said.

The basic course, called Capaces 101, is five-week program, with weekly meetings. Leadership Transition is a seven-month course, with sessions once a month.

She said one of the institute’s goals is teaching “capacitación,” a Spanish word that doesn’t have a precise English translation. She explained that it means learning to unpack a problem and put it back together differently.

“It’s not about telling you what to do,” she said. “You learn how to do it on your own.”

The ultimate goal is to help participants learn how to impact their communities and environments in unique and effective ways.

The classes also delve into topics that don’t often get discussed in such a public way, Isiordia said, like finances and personal health.

“To me, it’s very powerful just to see the faces of participants going into topics like gender equality and social justice,” she said.

But for Isiordia, the impact of Capaces goes even deeper than that. Originally involved with the program as a grassroots community organizer, she admitted that many of the responsibilities required of her when she first became executive director seemed outside of her depth.

“I’m a product of Capaces,” she said. “I went through a lot of these classes, and they really helped me grow and develop.”

Capaces is a nonprofit organization that was founded to prepare leaders in the Latino and farm-workers communities with the political consciousness and capacity needed to lead and support social justice work.

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Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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