Affiliate Spotlight: How the NCLR Affiliate Network Contributes to Organizational Success

By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR

El Concilio Affiliate of the Year 2015_blogsize

Jose Rodriguez (far right) accepts the 2015 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award in Kansas City.

This month in the Affiliate Spotlight, we’re featuring El Concilio, our Affiliate based in the heart of the San Joaquin Central Valley of California. This Affiliate has worked hard to position themselves as the hub of resources for the Latino community for the past 48 years. With a strong commitment to community service and by establishing lasting relationships with other community organizations, federal, state, and local elected officials, El Concilio constantly works to improve the lives of those in their community.

Their work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, NCLR recognized El Concilio with our 2015 Affiliate of the Year award. The group is also hosting our upcoming NCLR Affiliate Network Peer Exchange, generously supported and made possible by the Ford Motor Company Fund. For El Concilio’s President and CEO, Jose Rodriguez, the Peer Exchange is an opportunity to share with other Affiliates their own best practices and policies that have helped turn this community-based organization into the cherished resource it is.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio's membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio’s membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

El Concilio’s mission is simple: to improve the quality of life of Latinos in the Central Valley of California. It was founded in 1968 by a group of community activists and clergy who wanted to start an organization that would serve the growing migrant farmworker community. The original scope of Concilio’s work was limited to things like translation services, employment search assistance, and general advocacy. Over the years, however, it has expanded its array of services to include Head Start programs, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, civic engagement, and parent engagement programs, among others. Its humble beginnings included 28 employees and a one million dollar operating budget. Today, El Concilio boasts more than 200 employees, a $10 million operating budget, and it serves more than 25,000 people per year.

Rodriguez attributes much of El Concilio’s success to its membership within the NCLR Affiliate Network. “[NCLR’s Affiliate Network] contributed to our growth and success because we’ve been able to connect with other Affiliates. We’re able to learn from other orgs what they’re doing; how they’re solving some of the issues,” said Rodriguez. “NCLR leads the way by providing information to us and the research they do, which helps us then develop trainings. It has been the ace in our back pocket.”

(Click photos below to enlarge)

One of the areas where El Concilio shines is in its civic engagement work. Recognizing the need in the Central Valley, El Concilio has integrated civic engagement into everything it does. “A lot of times people think civic engagement is political and tend to shy away,” said Rodriguez. “We hope to help folks understand that it’s about advocacy and empowering our clients to be able to advocate for themselves and really educate them about what’s going on.”

At El Concilio, every client who walks in is greeted with the question of whether they’re registered to vote and if they have health care. This ensures that no opportunity is lost for those eligible to register to vote and gain health care. The group has also fostered healthy competition among its staff. Employee buy-in is critical to ensuring success, Rodriguez says. Every year El Concilio sets a goal of registering 2,500 people, and individual program teams set goals for themselves, too. The approach has worked and the organization often far exceeds its original goal.

(Click photos below to enlarge)

El Concilio was also a key player in the fight for the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. The group was instrumental in organizing town halls with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, and these town halls helped her develop the landmark legislation. Rodriguez hopes to share some of the wisdom behind their strategies for relationship- and network-building at the Affiliate Peer Exchange later this month.

It’s this spirit of sharing that Rodriguez finds most beneficial about the Affiliate Network and why he hopes as many Affiliates as possible can attend the convening. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have received the NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award, because when you look at the Affiliate Network, there are some that are doing an extraordinary amount of work,” said Rodriguez. “Some are bigger than others, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting engaged and putting your best foot forward.”

If you’re an NCLR Affiliate, sign up and register for the NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. We’ll see you in Stockton, CA!

Making Sure California’s Retirement Plan Serves Latinos Effectively


California Treasurer John Chiang speaks to NCLR Affiliates at Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services.

At the NCLR 2015 California Fall Regional Convening in Rancho Cucamonga, California, earlier this month, California State Treasurer John Chiang spoke to our Affiliate Network about the California Secure Choice retirement plan and how this program can help millions of Latinos in the state prepare for a financially secure retirement.

Close to 50 Affiliate organizations from across the state participated in the two-day convening, hosted by our Affiliate, Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services. There they engaged in peer-to-peer learning, networking, and heard from NCLR staff and partners for issue briefings on a number of policy topics.

Currently, only 29 percent of Latinos in California have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, making the Secure Choice individual retirement accounts (IRAs) an important policy for this segment of the American workforce. California Secure Choice, which was passed and enacted in 2012, would provide IRAs for workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan. NCLR’s research on the state of Latino retirement, Enhancing Latino Retirement Readiness in California, finds that certain plan features could remove barriers many Latino workers face today in preparing for retirement, including automatic payroll contributions, the ability to keep the account when an employee changes jobs, and the plan’s wide reach—workers at companies with just five or more employees would be automatically enrolled in the plan.

Treasurer Chiang noted that the Secure Choice board is conducting research and engaging stakeholders across the state, including employers and community members, on the plan’s design specifics. NCLR will continue to follow these developments and keep Affiliates updated on opportunities to provide their perspective to help ensure implementation of Secure Choice in California will maximize Latino participation.

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: People Are at the Heart of Hispanic Unity Florida

By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR


Community-based organizations exist to help people in myriad ways by making sure they have the necessary resources to live and prosper. To serve people well, the heads of such organizations must be thoughtful about the team they assemble to carry out the organization’s mission. For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, Hispanic Unity Florida (HUF), having the right team in place is a source of pride.

“We serve more than 17,000 people annually in the areas of civic engagement, economic development, and education,” said Josie Bacallao, HUF President and CEO. “We also have an incredible team that has been with us for a very long time, at every level, who has incredible dedication and passion for the work that they do.”

Though the organization has experienced some rough, unexpected moments during the height of the Great Recession, dedication to HUF’s mission never waned among staff members, said Bacallao.

HUFLOGOIt’s a good thing, too, because HUF provides much-needed services to their neighbors. HUF’s mission is to empower people, primarily Latino immigrants, in becoming self-sufficient and leading productive lives. The group also works on helping immigrants become civically engaged, of which the first step is becoming a U.S. citizen.

“When you look at the continuum of immigrants to the U.S., whether you’ve been here for only three months or for 15 years, we help them with everything from learning English to transitioning into becoming a U.S. citizen,” said Bacallao.

Hispanic Unity Florida’s civic engagement work is especially important. Programs include an eight-week citizenship class and eight drop-in classes, both of which serve South Florida’s tri-county (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) area. These two programs alone serve more than 1,500 people a year. Both are volunteer-run. HUF is also recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a BIA—Board of Immigration Appeals—organization, which allows it to provide naturalization assistance. The majority of the 1,500 people HUF serves in this area become American citizens.

NCLR’s citizenship team has provided HUF with funding and technical assistance in its civic engagement work. HUF was able to grow from one class to nine and eventually have a strong enough program to be supported through U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. HUF attributes its success to NCLR’s support and guidance. HUF was also recently named 2015 Southeast Affiliate of the Year at NCLR’s Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

HUF2_blogsizeWhile HUF has been engaged in growing their civic engagement capacity, that work is just one of many services our Affiliate provides. From helping people enroll in a qualified health plan through the Affordable Care Act to providing employment services, no matter what their clients need, HUF staff and volunteers do their best to help them.

“We really take the time to discover what our client’s needs are in order to help them—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Oftentimes, clients come in for just one service, for example just looking for a job, but many leave taking advantage of our many services and transform their lives in the process,” said Bacallao.

As for the future, HUF and its volunteer leaders are currently engaged in developing a strategic plan to map it out. They’re also working to close the Medicaid gap, as more than 800,000 Floridians still lack health coverage. Bacallao says they also plan to continue helping immigrants integrate into the community.

No matter what their programmatic work looks like going forward, one thing is for sure: HUF’s core mission will stay the same and they will continue to empower a new generation of Americans.

Highlights from 2015 NCLR Affiliate Regional Fall Meetings

Every fall, NCLR Affiliates come together at one of our four regional convenings across the country. These meetings give members of the NCLR Affiliate network an opportunity to share what we’ve been working on over the past year, as well as learn from each other on how to strengthen the programs we have in store for the future.

This year, participants engaged in discussions and presentations on a range of issues from health policy to housing and more. Below are highlights from this year’s meetings.



Far West/Midwest


This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 7


Week Ending August 7

This week in immigration reform: candidates in the first GOP presidential debate miss the mark on immigration; additional polls find Americans support immigration reform; and an NCLR Affiliate urges elevating the immigration debate beyond inflammatory rhetoric.

First GOP presidential debate for 2016, a missed opportunity: Last night was the first GOP presidential debate for the 2016 election and 10 candidates took the stage. While immigration was a hot topic, few of the candidates chose to outline responsible policies that would garner broad support from the American public, like comprehensive reform. Instead, they suggested building a fence with a “big beautiful door,” getting control of the border, and Donald Trump doubled-down on his claims that immigrants are criminals. Watch NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía respond to those comments on MSNBC below.

Read more in a CBS News article, watch brief clips of statements in a NBC News video, or read the entire annotated transcript of the debate.

Additional polls reiterate Americans’ support for immigration reform: Not only do a majority of Americans support a path to legal status for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, but a majority of Republicans do as well. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 36 percent of Republican respondents favored reform that would eventually lead to citizenship, and an additional 17 percent favored a path that offered legal status, totaling 53 percent. Overall, 47% of respondents favored a path to citizenship, with a total of 64 percent supporting legal status of some kind.

Another poll found a majority of Americans believe immigrants contribute to society rather than cause problems (59 percent). In light of recent legislation in Congress that would punish cities for refusing to compromise community safety for controversial immigration policies, the poll found “most Americans think illegal immigrants are just as likely to commit crimes as U.S. citizens. Republicans, however, are somewhat more inclined to say illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes (33 percent) than U.S. citizens (11 percent).” Americans clearly know what statistics show: that first generation immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than their native-born peers, and second generation children of immigrants don’t commit crimes any more frequently than their non-Hispanic white peers. Current rhetoric from 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls flies in the face of these numbers, with front-runners supporting deportation policies and decrying “amnesty.”

NCLR Affiliate brings attention to economic and human dimensions of  immigration: Ricardo Sánchez, founder of the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project at Sea Mar Community Health Centers, an NCLR Affiliate, co-authored an op-ed outlining the importance of undocumented workers in the agriculture sector. The authors write: “We should appreciate and not vilify undocumented workers for the value they bring to state and national economies and the world’s food stream. In large part, because of undocumented workers, the U.S. agricultural system is lauded internationally for its productivity and quality, and we all benefit as consumers.

This should be the context from which immigration reform is debated and reformed, and Donald Trump should be dismissed as an attention-seeking, bellicose guy with bad hair and money who will never be president.”

Strengthening the Base in Houston

By Maria Moser, Midwest Regional Director, Education, NCLR

Charter school boards have a unique responsibility as guardians of the public trust that created the charter itself. Yet many small independent charter schools do not have access to training and support for this critical work. Through Strengthening the Base, a project funded by the Walton Family Foundation and launched in 2014, NCLR has trained board members from nine participating schools that collectively serve more than 7,000 students through meetings, webinars, and on-site trainings across the country.

Last month, NCLR and AAMA, an NCLR Affiliate, hosted the Strengthening the Base spring meeting at George I. Sanchez Charter School. Board members and directors from NCLR Affiliate schools across the country gathered for NCLR’s personalized, hands-on training. Participants also had an opportunity to tour the school facility and learn about its work from Principal John De La Cruz.

We have learned a few key lessons from this work so far:

  • Charter school boards want support and connection. Our board members are passionate about their schools and the responsibility that accompanies board leadership, but they are often isolated, particularly those in smaller communities with few charter schools. Our cohort meetings provide a chance to share best practices and strategize about common challenges.

Our board members coming together to share updates.

“The presentations from other schools on best practices were excellent. It was great having an opportunity to see where other schools were in their respective development and growth.” –Participant evaluation

  • Charter school boards are busy and need dedicated time for critical reflection and planning. Charter school boards meet more often than other nonprofit boards—usually monthly. With a constantly revolving academic calendar, meetings can be overwhelmed by small details and immediate concerns. Strengthening the Base provides on-site, full-day retreats for each board to reflect on its priorities and progress. In the second year of this work, each school’s board will revise its self-evaluation and begin self-evaluations for individual board members.

“Meeting as a cohort allows us to step away from the day-to-day work and refocus on the importance of the project.” –Participant evaluation

MAAC Community Charter School’s Education Advisory Committee gathered in October to create goals for the year.

MAAC Community Charter School’s Education Advisory Committee gathered in October to create goals for the year.

  • Charter school boards need help translating education jargon into “real world” meaning. Our board members often bring a great deal of experience from their fields, including law, higher education, nonprofit management, and business, but they may be unsure of how to translate this expertise into the K–12 world, which has its own set of jargon and rules. Orientations for new members and regular updates for everyone on the changing world of K–12 policy are essential. At the Strengthening the Base meeting, NCLR’s Leticia de la Vara provided updates on national education policy issues, including reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Common Core State Standards.
  • Boards need tools. Small charter schools are often unaware of the resources available to help them work more effectively. Through webinars and meetings, Strengthening the Base has given board members the opportunity to share best practices and apply them to their work. At our March meeting, we compared several examples of leadership evaluation policies and standards, and we worked in small groups to create models of how these standards could be used in our own communities. By the end of the school year, all participant schools will have a revised leadership evaluation that reflects their unique situation while using best practices from across the country.
Two board members analyze the Education Leadership Policy Standards established by the Council of Chief State School Officers and compare them to school leadership indicators.

Two board members analyze the Education Leadership Policy Standards established by the Council of Chief State School Officers and compare them to school leadership indicators.

Strengthening the Base has given cohort schools a sense of camaraderie and a set of valuable tools and skills to improve their governance. NCLR will expand this work to the larger NCLR School Network at our Good Governance Summit on July 9–10 in Kansas City, Mo. Register for the summit today!

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: Valle del Sol

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR 

Valle-del-Sol-Youth-PicLive life inspired: for 45 years, NCLR Affiliate Valle del Sol has worked to live up to this motto, which is emblazoned on their headquarters building in Phoenix. Their tradition of caring for the community via health care, human services, and leadership development programs has earned the organization many accolades over the years. An impressive list of programs and health care offerings makes it easy to understand why Valle del Sol is considered such an important asset to the Phoenix metro area.

Last year, Valle del Sol served more than 25,000 men, women, and families. It predominately provides primary care and behavioral health services to the community. In fact, just last year it was recognized as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike, a distinction the group has been working on for more than three years. According to the latest annual report, as a FQHC Look-Alike, Valle del Sol “supports the delivery of comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services to low-income, underserved, and special populations.” As the primary care provider for so many Latinos in the Phoenix area, the group has keen insight into the health care needs of the community.

“What we see is that there is a need for more access to health care clinics and other health care environments,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Valle del Sol’s chief development officer. “And there is a need for funds to make that accessibility possible.”

One of the key aspects of Valle del Sol’s health care service is that they offer integrated care, meaning they offer mental and behavioral health care along with primary care in an effort to give their patients the best of both worlds.

“Having both mental health and behavioral health issues addressed while also being able to go see a doctor for disease management, vaccinations, a cold, etc., makes us a valuable asset for the community,” said Galindo-Elvira.

The health care services certainly stand out at Valle del Sol and are integral to the organization’s success, but they are also are just a snapshot of its full range of services. In addition to its health care offerings, Valle del Sol also operates a community resource center for parents to help them gain important life skills. Their Connect 2 Lead program also introduces youth ages 13–17 to the concept of leadership and of being a service to the community while also addressing any behavioral health issues.

For Galindo-Elvira, this leadership program, the African American Leadership Institute, and the Hispanic Leadership Institute comprise some of Valle del Sol’s achievements. For 27 years, Valle del Sol has run the Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI), which has provided an environment for Latinos and people of other diverse backgrounds that is full of learning opportunities designed to create systemic change. Part of HLI’s mission is also to diversify nonprofit boards and municipal commissions. The institute has helped Valle del Sol garner recognition, including as a “Leader of the Year in Social Services” and an overall “Leader of the Year” by the Arizona Capitol Times. The recognition is certainly warranted. Rubén Gallego, one of the institute’s graduates, was recently elected to Congress, something that Galindo-Elvira says the congressman always shares with audiences and prospective participants.


Hispanic Leadership Institute participants.

“It was a real affirmation of the work we’re doing in building the next generation of Latino and diverse leaders,” said Galindo-Elvira.

Another proud achievement for the organization came last year. As the lead plaintiff in the case against SB 1070 (the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act), Valle del Sol was successful in working with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to get the Supreme Court to decline taking a case on behalf of the state of Arizona.

“Valle del Sol agreed to be part of the lawsuit because of the impact SB 1070 would have on the community,” said Galindo-Elvira. “It was also the right thing to do to be opposed to a law with the potential to harm the Latino community. We’re proud of that work.”

Youth-VdS-CloudsIt’s no wonder that NCLR has recognized Valle del Sol twice in the last three years as our Far West Affiliate of the Year; being an NCLR Affiliate is something in which the organization takes great pride.

“Being an Affiliate of NCLR, it doesn’t matter how big or small you are,” said Galindo-Elvira. “We recognize that being part of NCLR is being part of something big. Being able to extend our voice, whether in Congress or the White House, we have a national presence.”

As for the future, Galindo-Elvira is confident Valle del Sol will continue its grand tradition of caring for the community and become an even greater asset to Phoenix and to NCLR.

“We want Valle del Sol to continue being the champion, the cheerleader, and the change-maker for Arizona, one that addresses health care, human services, and leadership development needs.”

Students: Take Advantage of Opportunities to Find the Career You Love

By David Castro, Senior Web Editor, NCLR

Escalera Alum, Sergio Valenzuela

Escalera Program alum Sergio Valenzuela

Going to college was not in the cards for Sergio Valenzuela early in his high school career. That was until he accompanied a friend to a meeting of the NCLR Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success, operated by NCLR Affiliate AltaMed Health Services Corporation at James A. Garfield Senior High School in East Los Angeles.

“I became involved with [Escalera] through a friend of mine. We’d hang out a little bit after school, and one day he told me he had to go to the library to meet with the case manager of this program his mom had signed him up for. So I went with him. They asked me if I wanted to be part of the program, I said ‘sure,’ and the rest is history,” recalls Valenzuela, a first-generation Mexican American born and raised in East L.A.

Through the program, Valenzuela was exposed to a different path. “Every event that they would take us to, it made me realize how important and impactful the program was,” he explained. “They took us to college campuses, which is something I never had the opportunity to do before. They helped us with college applications and financial aid, guiding us through the entire process.”

Valenzuela also credited his experiences with the Escalera Program as a junior and senior, as well as the people he met at the NCLR Annual Conference those years, with helping him grow as a professional. Yet it was his case manager, Diana Hernandez, who had the biggest impact on helping him choose a career as a leader for his community.

“She told me she had really enjoyed her studies,” said Valenzuela about Hernandez’s experiences within her own major. “It exposed her to different areas—political, social, economic—and that made me want to find out more about it,” he says. Valenzuela would go on to graduate from UCLA in 2013 with a dual major in international development and Spanish.

His work with the Escalera Program helped him land an internship with AltaMed during his senior year at UCLA. He now works there as the community relations and internships coordinator. He manages interactions with other local and national organizations and works to expand internship opportunities for medical students in different industries. In the near future, he plans to attend graduate school.

Valenzuela has a message to high school students exposed to programs such as Escalera. “I would let them know that along their lives they will come across different opportunities,” he says. “The opportunities they take advantage of will shape the people they’ll be in the future.”

“In my case, the AltaMed Escalera Program definitely played a big role in shaping the professional that I consider myself to be today. And this is not an opportunity students would want to pass on.”

Find out more about AltaMed and the NCLR Escalera Program.

NCLR Affiliates Meet in Philadelphia for 2014 Peer Exchange

This week, members of the NCLR Affiliate Network gathered in Philadelphia for the 2014 NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. For two days, Affiliates reconnected with others from around the country and re-discovered the array of skills to be found within our network of 300 community-based organizations.

This year, participants focused on how to grow and nurture a data-driven culture in their organizations. Case studies were presented and they heard from experts in the field, all in the name of growing the impact of Latino nonprofits.

The two-day meeting ended today. Below are some highlights from the event.

The Peer Exchange began with a tour of Philadelphia’s famed mural arts scene.The focus was on Latino mural arts.

Philadelphia Mural Tour #NCLRPX @NCLR @Congreso1977 A photo posted by @groman28 on

After the Mural Arts tour, it was time to get down to business.

After a long day of art and talk of data-driven culture, NCLRPX attendees ended with a community reception.

Vanguard Principal Alba Martinez and Comcast VP Maria Arias join #NCLRPX Community Reception.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

¡Liderazgo Latino! Johnny Irizarry, Casa Latina @ Penn and Maria Gonzalez, President of HACE. #NCLRPX #Congreso1977 A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

#PHL #Latino Legacy: Pedro Ramos, Alba Martinez, Dr. Carmen Febo, and Romy Diaz. #NCLRPX #Congreso1977

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

Day two of the Peer Exchange began with a tour of North Philly neighborhoods.

Edwin Desamour of MIMIC helping #NCLRPX put community in perspective.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

#NCLRPX tours the reality of Latino Philly…the beautiful murals, the amazing organizations…and the distress.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

After the neighborhood tour, attendees prepared for their meeting with some Harambe!

Great energy after the Harambe at #NCLRPX this morning! @congreso1977 A video posted by NCLR (@nclr) on

After a tour of Philadelphia Affiliate Congreso and the Pan American Academy Charter school, it was time to close the event.

We thank all of our great Affiliates who were able to join us in Philadelphia. To find out more about our Affiliate Network and the amazing work they do, visit the NCLR website.