Champions of Change – Five Outstanding Organizations


As the end of 2012 approaches, is looking ahead to 2013 as a year when we can all increase our efforts to work together to affect change in so many arenas. While this year ends with such sorrow for so many families in Newtown,  we want to also focus on the good and inspiring deeds of so many in our state that have taken place daily this past year, impacting us all in a positive way.
To recognize these deeds within the Latino community, we launched a series this week called “Champions of Change” that highlights people and organizations that have worked tirelessly to affect change for Latinos and non-Latinos in Connecticut. They have accomplished change through various means, some through their professional work, others by generously volunteering their time, working for change through policy implementation or by using the legal system.
Our “Champions of Change” were selected by our editorial team and represent many sectors that include: health, business, politics, media, art and law. We present them to you in five categories – Top Five, Five Young Latinos Already Making a Difference, Five Non-Profit Organizations, Five Latinos in Media & Arts and the Most Visible Latino. Today we highlight Connecticut’s Top Five Organizations that are “Champions of Change”: Progreso Latino Fund, Latino Endowment Fund, Hartford Puerto Rican Parade, Yale Law Clinic and Center for Children’s Advocacy.

The Progreso Latino Fund

The Progreso Latino Fund (PLF) was founded in 2003 to create an endowment fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven that would directly benefit the Latino community. In nine years, the fund has grown to approximately $250,000 through individual and foundation contributions, allowing it to sponsor educational forums and community events, provide scholarship money to high school students and support summer reading programs for younger children.
PLF forums are a primary strategy and platform for bringing people together, engaging Latinos and non-Latinos about issues, and providing a vehicle for conversations about how the issues impact Latinos.
Currently undergoing a transition in leadership, PLF remains committed to focusing its work on three core pillars: community awareness, relationships and leadership – all with an eye to advancing Latinos in the Greater New Haven community and beyond making it one of our “Champions of Change.”

Latino Endowment Fund

Members of the Latino Endowment Fund Steering Committee, from left, Evelyn LaFontaine, Barbara Fernandez, Germán Bermúdez, Rosaida Rosario, and Estela López
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund was established in 2003 to increase philanthropy within the Greater Hartford Latino community
The fund is a “giving circle.” Gifts are pooled in an endowed fund administered by the Hartford Foundation. Since its inception, more than 140 individuals have contributed to the endowment. Members – both Latinos and non-Latinos – study issues affecting the Latino community, such as how to improve education opportunities, and recommend grants. Grants totaling $120,000 have been awarded to agencies that serve the Latino community – in the areas of health care, nonprofit capacity building, civic engagement, and education.
One such grant was provided to Eastern Connecticut State University for a dual admission program to serve Latino students from Hartford in cooperation with Quinebaug Valley Community College. This innovative and successful approach assists Latino students in a seamless transfer from community college to a four-year institution and includes the opportunity for students to live on campus.
The Latino Endowment Fund has also sponsored a variety of convening events to inform and engage Greater Hartford’s Latino community on major issues affecting the region.  Forums have included such speakers as Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor who spoke about the urgent need to improve the public education system, Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University and Sila M. Calderón, former governor of Puerto Rico. The Latino Endowment Fund is a much needed entity and we thank those who support its works as a “Champion of Change.”

Hartford Puerto Rican Parade

The Connecticut Institute for Community Development-Puerto Rican Parade Committee (CICD) and its 15-member board of directors volunteer countless hours year-round to maintain the 54-year-old tradition of holding an annual Puerto Rican Parade in our state. It is held to encourage social engagement, community building, cultural enrichment and instill a sense of cultural pride in the state’s young Puerto Ricans by highlighting the historic influences of their heritage.
The parade attracts more than 50,000 people from around the region who converge upon Hartford to join in the festivities the first Sunday in June.
As part of the parade, the organization also produces the annual Ms. Puerto Rico of Hartford Pageant with three divisions: Ms. Puerto Rico, Ms. Pre-teen, and Little Ms. Puerto Rico. The pageant features the wealth of Puerto Rican culture, its towns, and history of the island through the aesthetic speeches, songs, poems and performances by the contestants. Since its founding, the pageants have also helped instill cultural pride in hundreds of Puerto Rican young women and girls who have taken part and have gone on to be successful and influential in our state.
Among the parade volunteers, many are second-generation Puerto Ricans who have taken on the task of organizing such a large event without staff in order to keep this cultural tradition alive because they are devoted to honoring the past and embracing the future here in Connecticut by enriching the lives of younger and current generations in the spirit of our predecessors, to instill a lasting cultural legacy. salutes all of you as “Champions of Change.”

Yale Law’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic

Professor Michael Wishnie
Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic has played a pivotal role in representing Latino immigrants in Connecticut who have endured civil right violations at the hands of local authorities and immigration agents making it, for them, a “Champion of Change” that has significantly improved their lives.
Two particular cases taken on by the clinic were considered especially significant. In 2006, local police in Danbury rounded up a group of Latino day laborers and delivered them to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This case is often referred to as the “Danbury 11.” In 2007, ICE raided four homes in the Fair Haven section of New Haven, taking custody of the immigrant Latinos without consent or warrant.
Professor Michael Wishnie formally established the clinic in 2007. However, the effort to protect immigrants was already underway when he and a group of students began to represent the Danbury 11. Now Wishnie, Professor Ahmad Muneer, and Associate Research Law Scholar Annie Lai teach and supervise the Yale Law School Students, who receive course credit for the clinic. WIRAC provides its services without charge.
Students in the clinic represent immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, and other matters. Immigrant workers and low-wage workers are easy targets for unscrupulous types, which is why the Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic work as a “Champion of Change” is so vital.

The Center for Children’s Advocacy

The Center for Children’s Advocacy’s attorneys represent children who have been abused and neglected. They work to provide protection and safety for every child they represent. The center operates from the belief that children in the care of the state’s child welfare system should be in a family-like setting whenever possible, have access to a consistent and effective education, and receive quality health and mental health care.
The Hartford based legal center, which also has offices in Bridgeport, was selected as a “Champion for Change” because 33 percent of children in foster care in Connecticut are Latino, which is a greater percentage than whites or blacks.
The center’s attorneys represent children and youth in Connecticut’s poorest cities, addressing factors that interfere with their ability to succeed in school. They meet with students at on-site school and hospital legal clinics, and at community after-school programs, youth shelters and treatment facilities. They help youth with their educational rights, guardianship and housing issues, domestic and dating violence, access to health care and mental health care, and access to financial aid for college.
Attorneys from the center, which was founded in 1997, also partner with doctors in low-income communities to improve children’s access to appropriate health care. With offices on-site at hospitals and community health facilities, the attorneys represent children to address issues such as substandard housing, inadequate income and benefits, disability rights, and access to education and health care.
Daily, without a large budget, the attorneys for The Center of Children’s Advocacy are “Champions of Change” for children who have no one else to speak up for them.