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Kate Flores


Voces Language Services Program

520 W. Michigan Ave.
Battle Creek, Michigan 49037
Kate Flores, executive director of Voces, believes that building relationships can transform the Battle Creek community better than simply providing services. Flores works with limited English proficient families to improve their health and quality of life through interpreter services, language classes, playgroups, immigration assistance, and women and youth groups.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Voces Executive Director Kate Flores: I’ve had some opportunities lately to reflect on this question. I think part of being a leader is about the energy we put out into the world and how we show up and approach the challenges in front of us. As a new mother of a six-month-old baby, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is how my energy affects my infant. When I am angry, upset, or stressed, he also feels this way. When I am relaxed, calm, centered, and grounded, he relaxes too. This has been a key learning lately when it comes to naptime and bedtime! Actually, as I write, my often fussy sleeper has calmly drifted off beside me – another reminder that how and where I put my energy has a profound effect. To me, this is leadership in parenting: I lead and teach my son through my energy and who I am “being.”
I see the same dynamic at work. Lately, we have been dealing with a challenging situation. I understand that an easy reaction would be to approach the situation with anger, a flurry of activity, and an “us vs. them” mentality. However, as I have thought about the responsibility of my leadership and what type of leader I want to be, I know that I aspire to be a different kind of leader.
I believe in the importance of the pause in order to get grounded and approach challenging situations with wisdom.
I believe in the importance of the pause in order to get grounded and approach challenging situations with wisdom. I believe it is my responsibility to set this tone and be a model for my team.
Overall, modeling is an important aspect of my view of leadership, as is the way in which we engage with others. My view of leadership stems from a fundamental belief in the ability, resources, and essential value of those around me. Though I have yet to perfect this, I aspire to in all I do to honor, respect, and pull forth the strengths of those I work with. This means listening, asking questions, sharing jointly in decision making, and being responsive. This is the way I attempt to work with my coworkers as well as how I lead the organization and interact with our community members.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that ALL kids have the opportunity to realize their full potential – that they all experience love, affection, and encouragement and that they all have equal access to opportunities. I dream that all kids have their basic needs met and are surrounded by communities that link together to support their individual development as amazing, creative beings with limitless abilities and potential.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Increased support and focus on what might be called “process capacity.” There is often support and focus on technical assistance to build organizational capacity.  I think it is just as important to develop process capacity – for example, skill sets about how to authentically engage and work with community, how to work with individuals in ways that build their resources and capacity (such as a coaching/strengths mindset vs. a services/deficit mindset), how to work with diverse cultures, and how to “turn outward” to increase our focus on community.  Transforming communities requires a different way of engaging and working with people which involves building relationships rather than just providing services.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know we are making progress when we are able to respond to our community members and realize some of their dreams and wishes. For example, for years our community members have told us they would like more educational opportunities, particularly for parents and adults to improve their English. In their words, they said “You’ve given us interpreters; now give us education so we can help ourselves.”  We have also heard the dreams and needs of youth to have stronger support and opportunities to engage with the broader community. This is an exciting year at Voces, as we are finally in a position to begin to realize more of those dreams. We know we are making progress when our classes are full and we have a waiting list, when the youth on our newly formed Youth Council request to meet weekly rather than monthly, and when a new women’s group fills beyond capacity in a week. We know progress is being made in the culture of the broader community when major funding institutions begin asking their grantees questions about how they serve limited English proficient families, when major health care institutions agree to financially support interpreter services, and when partner organizations hire their own bilingual staff. We understand the importance of concrete measurements as well, and Voces is in the process of developing and improving our evaluation systems.
What are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the team we have put together to do this work. One thing I have learned is the importance of getting the right people at the table first and developing strategies second. Every member of the Voces team has incredible experience, knowledge, and perspective. I value them very much and am proud of being able to put together a team that has the skills and just as importantly the mindset and approach to be able to make enormous community impact.
What (perceptions, messages, historical influences) create the most significant barriers to engaging Michigan citizens in helping vulnerable children?
At a general level, I think the lack of genuine relationships across differences creates the most significant barriers. When we do not fully know and understand one another, there is little motivation to change systems that create and perpetuate vulnerability.
When we do not fully know and understand one another, there is little motivation to change systems that create and perpetuate vulnerability.
For example, in the case of immigrants, it is very easy for people who do not personally know and have a relationship with an immigrant to hold stereotypes, judgments, or downright prejudices. I find that when we can meet and recognize our common humanity, these break down. When we build relationships, we find a shared commitment to community well-being.
At a specific level in the context of the population I work most closely with, the history and politics of our national immigration system has created the most significant barriers. Our broken immigration system has created a class of very vulnerable children – the undocumented and even the citizen children of undocumented parents. Because of the politics and controversies involved, it is extremely difficult to talk about and work openly to make positive improvements in the lives of these children and families. There is a need to change the mindset and see that these kids—most of whom have grown up here and identify Michigan as their home—truly are our children and also need our full support.

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  • Voces
    To build a community of opportunity, inclusion, and well-being for Latinos/Hispanics in Greater Battle Creek.


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