To honor nonprofit leaders who go above and beyond to serve their organizations and communities, the United Nonprofits Association celebrates an Outstanding Nonprofit Leader every year. The UNA's view of leadership is not defined by title or designation, age, authority, or any other qualifier. Instead, it is about the individuals who not only persevere in the face of obstacles, but also engage and inspire the people around them, motivating others to dig deeper and work harder to get results. Regardless of their role, these individuals have made a lasting and positive impact on their organization and in the community. Their passion is contagious, and their results are impressive. This year, our Executive Director Mayra Cedano was selected for this award.
Mayra Cedano is recognized as a kind, empathetic, and optimistic visionary who prioritizes the voice of the people above all else. Born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico, Mayra immigrated to the US at 11 years old. Her drive for social justice and commitment to immigrant rights and community organizing began at a young age, as a product of her lived experiences as a new American.
Mayra understands what it is like to live in a place where resources are scarce and fighting for one’s dignity is a daily task. She has pushed through many barriers by being courageous, creative, and self-motivated. As a leader, she understands the importance of creating, sharing, and holding space for others and for her community. Mayra’s history with Comunidades Unidas began 13 years ago, evolving through a number of roles from Volunteer Coordinator to Community Engagement and Organizing Director to her current role as Executive Director. Before assuming the position of Executive Director four years ago, she co-founded CU's Immigration Legal Clinic and obtained accreditation from the Department of Justice to practice immigration law. She harnessed her community organizing skills to develop a program in 2014 that is now a core pillar of Comunidades Unidas. The Despierta! Program provides education and information to workers about safety and their rights, addressing critical social and political structures that impact workers while advocating for better worker protections regardless of immigration status. Mayra has pushed through many barriers in her own journey and is a fierce leader who is unafraid to navigate new paths, learn from mistakes, and will always create the space for others to join her. In addition to Comunidades Unidas, Mayra has served as the Alumni Board Chair of the Chicano/a Scholarship Fund, board member of the National Partnership for New Americans, and has served on multiple scholarship committees. Mayra Cedano is known for her courage and resilience in fighting for a fair and just community for immigrants, workers' rights, liberation for all, environmental justice, economic justice, food justice, and social justice. Her leadership is from the heart, brave, and fierce and has changed the lives of hundreds of people in Utah.
To learn more about this award, click here to see the UNA award videos of this year.