Being named Washingtonian of the Year is a crowning career achievement, but for Lori Kaplan, it is just one of many awards and honors earned early on in her career. As president & CEO, Lori led Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) to its national prominence as an award-winning network of youth programs in Washington, DC, from 1987 to 2018. Under Lori Kaplan’s direction, LAYC has helped guide thousands of low-income youth to better opportunity while creating pioneering organizations and schools.
Lori’s leadership roles, past and present, include board member of Leadership Washington, YRMedia, and Turn Around Inc.; founding board member of The Nonprofit Roundtable and Asian American Lead; founding co-chair of the DC Alliance for Youth Advocates; and vice chair of the board of directors for LAYC Career Academy Public Charter School. Several national organizations regularly seek her advice and invoke the model success of LAYC’s innovative programs, including the Clinton Global Initiative America conferences 2013, 2014, and 2015, where she served as an advisor and panelist on the Reconnecting Youth work group; Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty; The National Youth Employment Coalition; and The National Youth Policy Forum. Several DC Mayors have relied on Lori’s leadership on youth issues, and many DC Council members.
Her recent recognitions include receiving the Madrina Award from Comcast and Telemundo Channel 4, Humanitarian of the Year from the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Children’s Champion award by DC Action for Children, Community Champion Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, and being named one of Washington’s 50 influencers by the Washington Informer Charities. In 2017, she was honored with NBC4’s Working 4 the Community Award, in recognition of her service and commitment to the DC community, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs.
However, it is the honors earned by LAYC under Lori’s guidance that she is most proud of: selection of LAYC as one the 100 most impactful organizations by S&I 100, a national index of top nonprofits creating social impact; selection by President Obama’s Social Innovation Fund as a key grantee from agencies across America, being pre-selected by Venture Philanthropy Partners for its portfolio of four from hundreds of nonprofits, and having Maryland leaders such as US Senator Barbara Mikulski, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett advocate for LAYC’s expansion to Maryland in 2005. The Families Count Award from the Annie E. Casey Foundation was also a highlight of her career. Recently, under her leadership, LAYC was one of 10 organizations, out of several hundred nationwide, selected for the Kresge Foundation’s Next Generation Human Services Initiative in 2017, given to organizations providing person-centered and outcomes-oriented supports to create permanent pathways out of poverty.
Under her leadership, LAYC founded 4 public charter schools in the District of Columbia including The Next Step/El Proximo Paso, Youthbuild, the Latin American Montossori Bilingual and the LAYC Career Academy. Combined they offer over 1000 opportunities to re-engage ‘opportunity youth’ and a first class early childhood education to students.
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Lori speaks Spanish as well as she does English, and after getting a bachelor’s in anthropology at Antioch College, earned her master’s in education at George Washington University in DC. A part of her extended family is from Mexico, and parts of her nuclear family hail from El Salvador. Her roots and interests led her to start volunteering at LAYC when she was a student. While proud that LAYC has been named one of the Top 25 Latino organizations in the US, she long ago widened its focus beyond Latino youth to youth of all backgrounds.
The common thread of Lori’s leadership has been to pioneer the way to innovation. From co-founding the first public charter school in DC, to owning and operating two Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops as part of a social enterprise effort, to leading the first massive multicultural mural painting endeavor in DC, to helping launch several organizations and initiatives, Lori Kaplan is a leader other leaders learn from. LAYC’s new president & CEO, Lupi Quinteros-Grady, a former LAYC youth participant, will continue to benefit from Lori’s experience and networks as Lori takes on her new role of special projects advisor during the presidential transition period.