A professor once told Christina Fernandez-Morrow she possessed a knack and intuition for how to reach and communicate with people from different cultures, as well as women.

That intuition, and her dedication to advancing both women and the Latino community, translated effortlessly to her career. Fernandez-Morrow’s role as executive director of the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines allows her to combine both of her strengths.

“There is a need to bring up that next generation of leaders,” she said. “These women are so passionate and want to make a difference. It’s that passion and enthusiasm that really drives me.”

Fernandez-Morrow, a Chicago native, landed in Des Moines in 2001 after accepting a job offer with State Farm Insurance. She moved on to lead the multicultural marketing efforts of H&R Block in the United States and the Caribbean. That job was based in Kansas City, Mo., but she returned to Des Moines in 2004, taking a position as executive director of Hispanic Educational Resources.

That’s where she discovered her passion for nonprofit work.

“It was work with a purpose,” she said. “It wasn’t about the pay or attention. These people were making a difference in the lives of those they worked with. That’s where I wanted to be, and I wanted to feel that every day.”

Fernandez-Morrow married her husband, Warren Morrow, in 2004. Warren, in addition to other ventures, founded the Latino Leadership Project, a program that helped young Latinos go to college. 

It was Warren’s goal, Fernandez-Morrow said, to instill values in the kids that would translate post-high school and propel them toward higher education.

Warren passed away in 2012, but his influence remains in Fernandez-Morrow’s life.

“I ask myself how would Warren handle this and what would he do?” she said. “There’s still a large part of me that wants to make him proud.”

Outside of work and volunteering, Fernandez-Morrow is currently editing her first young adult novel for publication. 

Reasons she’s a forty:

• She’s involved in numerous organizations that elevate and advance the Latino community, including being a founding board member of the Latino Heritage Festival.
• She is a founding board member of Art Noir at the Des Moines Art Center.
• She has served on the boards of Young Professionals Connection Des Moines, Latino Resources, Des Moines Public Library Foundation, Iowa Credit Union Foundation and more.
• She received the Next Generation Latina Award in 2012 and was named among The Des Moines Register’s 13 to Watch in 2013.