Yocasta Lora serves as Associate State Director for Advocacy & Community Outreach at AARP Pennsylvania where she implements national and state initiatives through strategic community engagement, local advocacy and member and volunteer management to create housing, transportation and public spaces that are affordable, accessible and livable for all ages.
Before joining AARP, Lora was the Director of Programs for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In this role, she supported the two largest programs in the Chamber: the Small Business Development and Education and the Professional Mentoring Network Programs. These programs focused on strengthening professional development and business opportunities in the Greater Philadelphia Region through revenue generation and local job creation.
Lora currently serves as a board member for The Merchants Funds, The Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance (DVSGA) and the Census 2020 – Philly Count Aging Committee Vice-Chair, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) Housing Committee, Philadelphia Vision Zero, Philadelphia Transit Alliance Committee. Previous services included Comhar Board Member, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of commerce- Latina Leadership Advisory Board, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker Retirement Security Task Force, Philadelphia Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED WEEK), University of Pennsylvania Economic & Inclusion – Procurement committee, and the Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Transition Team.
Lora received the City of Philadelphia Next Generation of Women Leaders: Rising Stars, Business and Professional Women (BPW) - 2017 professional of the Year Award, the International Community Service Award, The AL Dia Women of Merit Award and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, (B.B.A) degree from La Salle University.
She is also one of the founders of the Dominicanos in the Delaware Valley professional group.
In her present role, Yocasta Lora continues to advocate for inclusive communities.
What is a defining moment in your career and life?
I have so many experiences that I can name as defining moments in my life and career. Becoming a mom was the most enlightening moment. Being an immigrant is another. It helped me learn more about my heritage and how I connect with others outside of my culture. Working at AARP serving and supporting the older population has helped me pay more attention to how we build our neighborhoods, the needs of our communities, age discrimination, the older population's vital contribution to the economy, how we define aging, and the cultural impact of that definition. Getting older is inevitable and definitely better than the alternative. From all the moments that I have mentioned, the death of my father has changed me forever. That experience taught me how to be resilient, patience and the value of spending quality time with your loved one.
What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your field and how did you overcome them?
I have faced a lot as a woman of color in the field of advocacy. Working with community members, developers, designers, lawyers, engineers, or simply small business owners can be challenging at times. There are competing priorities that must be taken into consideration. Navigating those challenges as a woman of color with an accent has made it particularly difficult at times. I not only have to focus on the work at hand but often have to expend added capital in building credibility and sometimes trust. It’s an extra “tax” levied on people of color and especially women but I am continuing to learn how to work through it so that my voice can be heard and my work respected. Despite this, I have been fortunate enough to find strong women in my path who I have learned from and have been empowered by to make those challenges part of my forte. When I show up, I have their experiences, voices, and support a mi lado—at my side!
What woman inspires you and why?
My mother, my sisters, and my three children. These women fill my life with joy, happiness, and peace. There is no job title, project, or award that will impress them. My mom taught me how to work with integrity and passion for what I believe in. My sister's trust in my abilities empowers me to do better while remaining true to myself, and my kids are the engine that motivates me to start every day with a sense of purpose.
What is your advice to the younger generation of women coming after you?
Life is a roller-coaster full of adrenaline. It can be challenging and requires dedication, passion, and learning from failure, but you should never give up. Everyone has a purpose. Find your purpose and you will uncover what your true role in life is, both personally and professionally. Also, never forget to be happy. Remember that your family, friends, and everyone important in your life are happy with you and for you throughout your journey. At the end of the road, your life is defined by you and your time with loved ones.
What does being a part of the African Diaspora mean to you?
Being black is part of who I am. My African heritage connected me with diaspora across the globe through music, food, charisma, and cultural practices. I am grateful for the sense of community it gives and the impact we have on society.