By Eunice Ahenkorah, Education Policy Fellow, NCLR Policy Analysis Center
Last week Washington was buzzing with excitement as more than 200 advocates, including nearly 60 youth participants, from NCLR Affiliates across the country converged on the nation’s capital. In all, groups from 28 states participated in the 2014 NCLR National Latino Advocacy Days. On the first day, three workshops and five briefings were organized to teach participants how to advocate effectively when meeting with elected officials and their staff. Then, on the second day, participants held more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.
One of the most important issues at this year’s event was education, as evidenced by the nearly 70 people who joined the education workshop on March 5 to discuss principles of equity, access, and opportunity. Some of these participants shared with us why they are passionate about education:
“We all have goals and aspirations in life. The key to getting the things you want in life is education. I believe that there needs to be some kind of reform in our current education system. No system or bill was ever perfect, but we need to have some type of reform to pass on to the next generation to come.” –Kevin Sanchez, age 18, first-time youth participant from Raleigh, NC
“I am passionate about education because I want to succeed in life….I want to go to college and have an amazing life with whoever I want.” –Jennifer Reyes, youth participant
“I think we as a country have to do a better job of supporting parents and kids, especially Latinos. We know that one out of every five children in the U.S. is a Latino, so we need to seriously start investing money in them because they are going to be the future of the country.” –Karen Gomez, Executive Director of Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska and mother of two
“Education starts very early, at birth. Our [Latino] kids are already falling behind, when they start school. Because of this we cannot further our education as a community in order to help others.” –Zhania Martinez, volunteer at Action Institute, NC, a former NCLR Emerging Latino Communities (ELC) Initiative grantee
NCLR’s National Latino Advocacy Days are proof that Latinos are a powerful force in this country. The diversity of age and geographic location among participants reflects the commitment, strength, persistence, and resilience of our community. They came to tell their stories, show how congressional inaction was affecting their lives, and give Latino issues the attention they deserve. If members of Congress are wise, they will have listened closely to the hundreds of advocates who visited them last week. Doing otherwise could result in a lost seat in Congress come Election Day.