Education: B.A., mathematics, University of Arkansas; M.A., teaching, University of Arkansas
Professional background: Before establishing nonprofit RootED Northwest Arkansas in July 2017, Yáñez served as the education program manager at Cisneros Center for New Americans. She previously was a mathematics teacher at Springdale High School and Haas Hall Academy in Bentonville.
What was your dream job as a kid and why? A cashier. There were many times our family suffered food insecurity, and when my parents were able to spend for a snack or something beyond basic needs, it was the cashier who made that dream into a reality.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishments or wins in your current job? I come from the community that I’m serving. Education helped me break cycles, but being an executive director helped me heal and understand my journey that I went through. It’s an honor to be able to serve and be impactful with the work knowing the struggles of surviving to thriving in life.
What advice would you give young women who are currently at the beginning of their careers? When things get messy and we’re being judged, just keep going because there are people watching who are going to admire your strength and commitment.
What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? I’m very humble with the work, and I don’t like the limelight. But in order to broaden the impact, I need to step up and use my voice to create change.
What is a leader’s best asset? The ability to listen even when no words are being spoken and create an environment where everyone can thrive individually.
How do you spend your time away from work? What are your hobbies? After 40 years of taking care of everyone and 20 years of being a single mom, I’m learning to discover and try out new things to see what I enjoy doing.
What’s your biggest passion and why? Growth and healing. I hold myself accountable to that because in order to make societal change, we have to understand how we impact that.
What is something distinctive that people would be surprised to know about you? I’m very transparent and vulnerable … so I don’t think anyone would be surprised. They probably know more about me than I know about myself.
Can you recommend a book that has had an influence on your career? How did it influence you? “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by Adrienne Maree Brown. As women, we take everything on and don’t ask for help, and that book has helped me understand we each have a part to play, and supporting each other is what really creates impact.
What’s the best way to encourage productive collaboration? Creating a space of trust, honor, respect and dignity, because without those pieces, true collaboration does not exist.
Can you share what you have learned about your business from the COVID-19 pandemic? Our nonprofit was on the front lines during COVID, and how we were trusted, and how we have to guard and protect that trust at all times.
What’s your favorite app at the moment? Instagram.
If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it? Visit Machu Picchu, have a house by the Pacific Ocean and get my Ph.D. from Harvard.