By Christina Rose
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the county’s largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, left three of Connecticut’s Latina leaders feeling revitalized after recently wrapping up its four-day conference in New Orleans. The women, champions and activists for the state’s Latino community, took in as many new strategies as they could to advance the future of Connecticut’s Latinos.
Yvette Bello, executive director of Latino Community Services, Yanil Teron, executive director of the Center for Latino Progress, and Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, of Centro Hispano of Danbury, divided their time among different workshops, which were lead by other Latino trailblazers, that focused on politics, science, education, and government policy.
Each evening, they regrouped to share what they had learned and to brainstorm ways their new strategies can further develop the future of Connecticut’s Latino population.
“We are so anglo in our population in Connecticut. In other states, you are really seeing the browning of America. The conference will help us move further and faster,” Bello said. “We can change the conversation; we need to look at the investment in our future, the leadership track for young people. There needs to be more helping young people get a good start.”
Bello described the event as “food for the brain.” Besides an overwhelming amount of inspirational seminars she attended “was the fact that we were in the room with thousands of people moving in the same direction,” she said.
The three women all agreed that one of the most impactful workshops they attended was a fundraising program. They learned how organizations can connect, work together and funnel their resources like a pipeline, and how together they could seek one large grant.
“Together we can collaborate and compete for large amounts of money with our different areas of expertise,” Alvarez-DiMarzo said.
Bello recounted a story about a community that collaborated with several agencies and brought in $30 million for one neighborhood. “Working like this could impact as many as 6,000 kids for education, health and more,” Bello said. “Not a lot of people think that way. We are hoping to do a collaboration that will benefit the entire Latino community, statewide.”
Bringing outside funding into the state could counter some of the 12 percent sequestration cuts, which was another major topic at the conference. Teron said the cuts will be devastating to those who rely on services such as Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) nutrition assistance, Head Start, child care development, education, job training, rental assistance, medicaid and social security. “The Latino community is growing really fast but services are not. They are declining,” Teron said.
Teron added that the conference provided them with new best practices for program and services for the health and sustainability of Connecticut’s Latino community. “Most of these practices have been built on deep cultural systems, which pave the way for successful integration and education of many Latinos,” she said.
Developing leadership programs for the youth was another key topic the women wish to carry back home. According to Teron, “We are trying to see what kinds of services would help us develop economically. We need our children to become a generation of leaders for our community; not only with their ABCs, but also with their values and culture.”
Teron explained that in other areas of the country, Latinos hold onto their culture for four generations and more, and said she wished to cultivate that in Connecticut as well. “My organization is looking at Connecticut. What programs and services do we need to develop that promotes our community from generation to generation?” she asked.
“Telemundo, Toyota, Southwest Air, UPS, AT&T, Citibank, all are investing millions in NCLR, they see how important it is. There were sponsorships and investments from organizations that see the value in supporting the Latino communities,” Bello said. “The head of the Ford Foundation is Latino! It made me so proud. It was so good to see our people play important roles. The whole thing was sensory overload.”