Florencio Vente, a 2021 Aspire Leaders Program alumnus from Colombia, initiated advocacy work at a young age. He was born in Cartagena, but his family moved when he was two years old to Bogotá for better employment and educational opportunities. His sister’s advocacy work inspired him to focus on grassroots movements, particularly for communities of African descent and migrants.
At just 12 years old, Vente played a pivotal role in an organization called Afroamigos, advocating for Colombia’s first law against discrimination. Motivated by personal experiences, he challenged stereotypes and sought to support his community.
“From an early age I recognized the different experiences and lived realities we have as a society, specifically discrimination and the lack of access to opportunities that certain communities have that others don’t,” he explained.
Facing financial barriers to study international relations at private universities, Vente turned to technical training. At Servisios Nacional de Aprendizaje, he completed a certificate in negotiation while serving on student council and continuing advocacy work outside of his studies.
Years later, he pursued a bachelor’s in international business at EAN University and after graduating the International Association of Students in Economics and Business (AISEC) offered him a life-changing opportunity in Brazil. Despite a job promotion, Vente chose to follow his dream to work abroad. What seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity led to Vente’s relocation to Brazil for many years. After finishing his AISEC internship, he received full time work.
“Six months later, I decided to move there permanently and work for a sustainable agriculture and renewable energy company and continue with graduate studies in social entrepreneurship and innovation,” he explained. “And it’s been almost 5 years now!”
Supporting Migrants and Refugees as a Migrant Himself
As a Colombian living in Brazil, Vente experienced new challenges and turned his focus to supporting others who had relocated.
Learning Portuguese became essential for his integration, prompting him to engage with a diverse community of other migrants and refugees.
“I enrolled in a language program at a public university called Portuguese for Migrants and Refugees,” he said. “I had the chance to meet so many people from different countries and backgrounds—Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Congo, Venezuela, so on— and it was really eye opening.”
Heartbroken by disparities faced by other migrants, Vente founded a cultural exchange club for migrants and refugees to gather together. As this organization grew, he shifted towards policy work, addressing both cultural and economic integration.
“I felt good about what we were doing in the short term, but I knew that we needed to start thinking about activities and change that would last longer,” he said. “This is when I decided to shift into policy work. We became a member of the youth council of the city, and I was the first migrant to be appointed [to] the council.”
Vente advised the mayor’s secretary responsible for migrant affairs and youth through this new role and this past year, he has taken on the role of co-director of the Migration Youth and Children Platform. He manages a global coordination team of over 50 remote volunteers and a network of over 4,000 youth. This role also involves consulting and advocating for youth priorities by working with youth-led organizations on high-level migration governance and co-leading the design, implementation, fundraising, execution, and evaluation of youth-led and -driven projects – in partnership with key international stakeholders. He decided to dedicate his time to this initiative and stepped down from his previous full time job at the renewable energy firm.
As he takes on this new leadership role, he reflects positively on how the Aspire Leaders Program and Extended Leadership Programs contributed to his success.
Collaborating to Make a Difference
Vente participated in various leadership programs and admires the Aspire Leaders Program for being inclusive and committed to supporting young leaders worlwide.
His participation in the Aspire Leaders Program provided valuable lessons, emphasizing diverse pathways for change. The program’s commitment to accessibility left a lasting impact, inspiring Vente to prioritize inclusivity in his future endeavors.
“You were the only ones really caring about accessibility — working hard to make sure people could participate and really be a part of the program,” he said.
Reflecting on his experiences, Vente encourages youth to pursue their passions collaboratively.
“It’s never too late to start doing something you are passionate about, and you can’t do anything entirely alone, but with partnership you can,” he said. “Be a part of the community and give back to the collective effort. Figure out how to always bring more people to the table.”
Continuing to Elevate Youth Voices
With aspirations to attend the Sustainable Development Goals summit in 2024, he remains dedicated to bringing the youth perspective to the forefront. Planning a master’s program in peace building or conflict resolution, he envisions returning to Colombia to reconnect with family.
Outside of his professional pursuits, Vente immerses himself in culture and nature, enjoying activities like hiking, biking, exploring restaurants, and attending movies and concerts. As he embraces a future filled with high hopes and goals, Vente’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of advocacy, education, and community engagement.