Women's History Month: Meet Leticia Corona, farmworker turned business expert and mentor

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- She started out picking grapes near the city of Selma and now she is a leading expert in business and philanthropy. 33-year-old Leticia Corona was recently appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom to serve as the first Central California Regional Lead Advisor at the California Office of Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) within the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. A long title but in short, she's advocating on behalf of small business owners and connecting them with much-needed resources. Lifting others is something she's been passionate about since childhood.

"We're all in this world for a purpose and we have to utilize our privileges to help others and create opportunities for others," said Corona.

Corona credits family members in Mexico and the Central Valley for her spirit of entrepreneurship. As a child, she would accompany her uncle to local swap meets in Fresno County and helped translate as he sold goods. Her grandparents were small business owners and ranchers in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Her father did not go to school and her Mom only completed the first grade but Corona's family immigrated to the United States looking for a better life. Working hard in the fields, picking grapes near Selma, they saved their money and stressed the importance of education. Corona and her four sisters all have college degrees. One of her sisters is a doctor, another an immigration attorney.

Corona says her mother is a role model and trailblazer. She says, "Our madrecita was the first woman to leave her rancho and her pueblo and come to the U.S."

Corona received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Chicano Studies and Anthropology. She went on to earn her Master's degree in International Relations.

She worked with the Hewlett Foundation and started a multi-million dollar grant-making portfolio. Through her leadership, money was invested in reducing poverty in low-income communities especially rural areas. She became an expert on diversity, equity, inclusion, fair trade, philanthropy and entrepreneurship.

Corona has mentored young Latinas and women of color in the Central Valley to help their academic and professional development. She devoted time with the Fresno County League of Mexican American Women and is an alumna of the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality fellowship. Corona is also a former RSF Integrated Capital Institute fellow.

She says, "It's important for us to have a seat at the table but it's more important that when you are at the table, you pull up two more seats." She continues, "You can be the first but make sure you are not the last or the only one."

Previously, Corona served as the Director of Community Advocacy at Leadership Counsel for Justice in Accountability setting policy priorities and developing new strategies for investments in long-term water projects in low-income rural communities in the state. She worked alongside organic, small-scale coffee producers and indigenous women's cooperatives in Mexico on projects that enhance earning power while maintaining environmental sustainability. Corona also worked for the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative in partnership with UNESCO in Tijuana, Mexico, where she contributed to the development and implementation of their youth entrepreneurial and leadership programs.

While she has traveled the world, Corona is thrilled to be back working in Fresno. Her sisters are also working in the valley. She credits her parents for instilling good values.

"They always taught us: use your privilege for good," she said.

ABC30 thanks the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation for sponsoring our Women's History Month coverage.
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