Scene Magazine | Scene 2021
Two years after joining The Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GQCHCC) as the program and communications manager, Janessa Calderon '16, '19 MOL was appointed executive director of the organization that serves as a resource for hundreds of businesses throughout the region.
It is a role that unifies Calderon's purpose and passion: helping businesses thrive. "I've always grown up with the confidence and support that I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe you should leave the earth better than you found it. In some cases, being a leader is the opportunity to grow something and watch it succeed. I saw the opportunity to help the Hispanic chamber grow," she said.
Calderon was a first-generation student and took every opportunity to bolster her degree in Strategic Communications. She completed three internships and immersed herself in the world of public relations and marketing. Those experiences sparked her to become more involved in the Quad Cities and focused on a career in public outreach.
Calderon chose to build on her undergraduate degree with a Master of Organizational Leadership (MOL) degree. She was hired by the GQCHCC while a student in the program and didn't let a moment pass.
"I started as the Program and Communications Manager, helping host events and marketing. From there I grew into the Membership Coordinator role, which allowed me to connect with chamber members, identify their needs and how to best assist them. Putting the two roles together gave me a good understanding of the ins-and-outs of the chamber," she said.
When the executive director position opened, Calderon applied, well-prepared at the age of 26 to lead the organization and community to success. She works with members to find out what resources they need, expands and strengthens community partnerships, connects the Latino community with corporate members, and provides additional resources to small business and nonprofit members, whether it is to promote job openings or information on how to achieve diversity and inclusion.
"One of my goals is to enhance the reach of the Hispanic Chamber in the community and begin different forms of partnerships that will aid in the Quad Cities efforts to work in unison," she said.
Through the MOL program, Calderon gained a better understanding of what leadership truly means. "I learned everyone has the potential to lead if they have found their purpose, challenge the status quo, and have the personal drive," she said. "Through the program, I was able to better develop my leadership, strategic planning, and management skills, and gained the tools to face adaptive challenges ahead," she said.
"I am passionate about the work I do for the Hispanic Chamber because the Quad Cities and its surrounding areas have a multicultural identity that creates a unique and positive economic impact. I strive to give a better understanding of the contributions that minority and immigrant businesses have in our community."