Meet Jacqueline Diaz – Founder of The Steven Spectrum Career Project

Can you start by sharing a bit about yourself and your background?

My journey has been guided by the Christian values instilled in me from a young age, growing up in a family that strongly emphasized faith and community. My upbringing, deeply rooted in a strict yet loving household where Sundays and many days in between were dedicated to the church, instilled in me a robust moral compass and an unwavering commitment to my faith. While my spiritual journey has evolved, identifying more with Christianity as a whole, the essence of my Pentecostal upbringing continues to shape my worldview and actions.

The pivotal moments in my career trajectory were not just steps along a path but leaps toward realizing my true calling. My father’s disappointment when I ventured into the liquor industry sparked a significant shift in my professional life, steering me towards roles that resonated more deeply with my values. I found myself thriving in leadership positions where I could mentor, develop, and champion each individual’s unique strengths. Yet, this journey was not without its challenges. The dissonance between my vision for personalized coaching and the rigid structures of the organizations I was part of led me to reevaluate my direction.

My own struggles in finding fulfilling work, marred by the all-too-common experiences of being ghosted or misled by recruiters, ignited a fire within me. It propelled me to redefine recruitment, focusing on authenticity and a genuine understanding of each person’s story and aspirations. This vision came to fruition with the encouragement of my brother and husband, leading me to establish my recruiting agency: Strategic Talent Acquisition, A Recruiting Firm that embodies my commitment to integrity and personalized connection in the recruitment process.

What inspired you to start this non-profit organization?

It was a profound sense of calling emerged, inspired by my autistic nephew’s search for meaningful employment. Observing the difficulties faced by the neurodiverse community in finding work that aligns with their purpose, I felt an undeniable pull towards making a difference beyond the confines of traditional recruitment. This led to the birth of a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting neurodiverse individuals in their employment journey. The Steven Spectrum Career Project. My aim is not just to offer job opportunities but to advocate for inclusion, understanding, and the recognition of the unique talents and perspectives that neurodiverse individuals bring to the workplace.

 What values or principles drive your work with the non-profit?

My work is driven by a belief in personalized coaching and development, recognizing the unique needs and ways each individual shines. Integrity, authenticity, and a genuine understanding of each person’s story and aspirations form the cornerstone of my approach.

Were there specific experiences or challenges in your life that motivated you to make a positive impact through a non-profit?

Yes, my own struggles in finding fulfilling work and the all-too-common experiences of being ghosted or misled by recruiters propelled me to redefine recruitment and, ultimately, to establish a nonprofit focused on creating inclusive employment opportunities for the neurodiverse community. I saw how hard it could be for the neurotypical and how much harder it is for the neurodiverse.

How does your Latina identity influence the mission and work of the non-profit?

My Latina heritage, rooted in my parents’ journey to this country in search of the American dream, instilled in me a strong work ethic and the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of their abilities. This perspective adds a unique dimension to our mission, emphasizing inclusivity, opportunity, and the empowerment of underrepresented communities.

In what ways do you think your background adds a unique perspective to the organization’s goals?

The blend of my strong faith, Latina heritage, and personal experiences enriches our organization’s goals with a deep understanding of diversity, resilience, and the power of community support in overcoming barriers to employment.

How do you engage with the community you serve?

We engage with our community through various initiatives. We advocate, educate, and work closely with employers to create more inclusive workplaces.

What advice would you give to other women or Latinas aspiring to start their own non-profit?

Embrace your unique experiences and perspectives. Your passion, determination, and commitment to making a difference are your greatest strengths. Stay true to your values and believe in the impact you can create.

How can individuals contribute to the causes your organization supports?

Individuals can volunteer, donate, spread the word, advocate for the neurodiverse, and help us write grants for funding. Your support is crucial in extending our reach and impact.

Where do you see your non-profit heading in the next few years?

I envision our non-profit expanding its funding and support services to place at the very minimum 500 neurodivergent individuals into training and jobs each year, further educating the community and employers on inclusivity.

Are there specific goals or initiatives you are excited about for the future?

Our signature horse program excites me the most, offering unique opportunities in the equine industry. We’ve partnered with horse trainers from Belmont Racetrack to provide paid training for careers in the equine industry, along with offering housing, medical, and dental benefits.  We look forward to launching more such innovative programs that cater to the diverse interests and abilities of our clients.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience about your journey or the work of your non-profit?

I will be releasing my first children’s book about an autistic boy who finds his voice through music therapy. I invite you to pick it up, with 10% of the proceeds going to support our non-profit, The Steven Spectrum Career Project.

How can people get involved or support your organization?

People can get involved by volunteering, donating, spreading the word, advocating for the neurodiverse, and assisting with grant writing for funding. Every bit of support helps us move closer to our goals of creating a more inclusive and empowering employment landscape.

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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