President and CEP of Ibero-American Action League
By Stephanie Williams | Photo by Rita LaVeck
It’s so rare to find a woman of strong conviction making a consistent difference in her community – meeting with Hilda Rosario Escher, the President and CEO of Ibero-American Action League, was an inspiring opportunity to learn about what feeds an unwavering spirit of voluntarism and passion for providing necessary human services to Rochester’s underserved communities.
Escher, who was honored this May by New York State Senator Joe Robach as a New York State Senate 2012 Woman of Distinction, has made incredible strides in the Latino community through her leadership at Ibero, providing growth and development services in a culturally sensitive manner for Latinos not only in the city of Rochester, but its surrounding communities throughout the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes regions.
As a young woman growing up on a farm in Puerto Rico, Escher knew early on that she was different. Her petite frame and vibrant appearance are on par with her entrancing enthusiasm for community service and clearly has not faded with age. With a passion for learning and a self-described “rebellious spirit” guiding her to always do the opposite of what she was told, Escher forwent the antiquated expectations for Puerto Rican women to run a household and serving her husband initially to become a teacher. She arrived in Rochester after graduating with a degree in Sociology, Education & Social Work from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras.
Escher’s impact on Latinos in Rochester began when she landed a position in Ibero’s Secretarial Training Program. She had taken a brief hiatus to work with the United Way and returned to Ibero to lead the agency’s array of intervention and advocacy initiatives for individuals with developmental disabilities ranging from lessons in self-sufficiency and basic skills to placement and facilitation of group homes designed exclusively for Latinos with developmental setbacks.
Outside of providing vital services to Latinos of all ages including health outreach, homeownership counseling, and providing grants to start and sustain Latino-owned businesses, Escher’s goals for the agency are firmly rooted in providing equal access to education, particularly in Rochester’s City Schools. “Education is the key out of poverty and paves the road to self-sufficiency,” says Escher, who has grown the agency’s scholarship fund since her appointment to President and CEO in 2006. “My goal as President is to improve the graduation rate within the city schools. Ibero has partnered with the University of Rochester to study the reasons why Latinos were unsuccessful in school. The results that we found were implemented into RCSD’s curriculum and we continue to measure the effects of the recommendations we have found as part of Ibero’s strategic plan for education.”
Beyond the services she has championed for Rochester’s Latinos, it’s hard to believe Escher dedicates a great deal of her free time to advocating for equal access to human services. “I volunteer voraciously,” says Escher, who volunteers and partners with organizations including the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center, Huther-Doyle Memorial Institute, the Primary Care Development Corporation, Rochester Hispanic Business Association, and the American Diabetes Association.
“I hope that when I am gone people will not focus on the talents I have taken with me, but the impact I have made to improve Rochester’s communities.”
The Ibero-American Action League has been providing services to the Rochester community since 1968. For more information visit their website www.iaal.org