Valuing Diversity and Strengthening Inclusion

Lynda Gonzales-Chavez is responsible for leading the YMCA in advancing a sustainable culture that values diversity, strengthens inclusion, and fosters community bridge-building.

As the  senior vice president and chief diversity officer for YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office for the country’s 2,700 YMCAs, Gonzales-Chavez is focused on embedding diversity and inclusion practices, building staff and volunteer cultural competencies to engage underserved communities, and ensuring the nonprofit organization’s leadership mirrors the communities it serves.

Her international and domestic experience, combined with a deep understanding of history and culture, give her a unique perspective. With 28 years of global experience working with and on behalf of diverse and underserved populations worldwide, she is one of the most respected voices in the Y on global engagement practices.

She describes being a woman in her profession as an incredibly rewarding and fascinating journey. “I’m proud to work for a nonprofit that includes ‘for all’ in its mission statement and has an organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to meet the men who founded the Young Men’s Christian Association back in 1844 and what the conversation would be like!” she said.

Gonzales-Chavez has widespread experience with the Y as a staff member and a volunteer, and has held positions on the  Y-USA Board of Directors and the World Alliance of YMCAs Executive Committee.

She joined the Y-USA International Group in 1999 as senior associate director, specializing in global and local-based strategies to engage immigrant, diverse, and marginalized communities at all levels of the Y. In this role, she provided support to YMCAs and communities focusing on cultural competence, inclusion practices, immigration, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse prevention, outreach to high-risk and incarcerated populations, gang intervention, conflict resolution, and life skills. She led cultural immersion trips to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America, and has represented Y-USA in more than 30 countries.

In addition, Gonzales-Chavez served as a program manager and senior gang interventionist for Youth Development, Inc., in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she worked with more than 50 gangs. She developed and implemented innovative programs for gang members that focused on cultural identity, non-violence, faith-based experience, informal education, peer mentoring, and participatory learning. “When I moved from a job as a gang interventionist to YMCA of the USA I learned that skills and experience between completely different roles are very transferable,” Gonzales-Chavez said.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in public service management from DePaul University.