CASA at Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter School

 By Jennifer Archer, CASA Instructor, Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter School

The Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter School (MORCS) family kicked off our work with CASA with a trip to the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition (GWHFC). Students in the Youth Advisory Board were discussing the lack of services for homeless people in Los Angeles, and wanted to see what they could do to help.

 

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Mi CASA Es Su CASA: Cultivating Agents of Change to Serve the Latino Community

By Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon, Ed.D., Senior Director, Education Leadership Development

Earlier this month, the country mourned the loss of “The Greatest,” boxer Muhammad Ali. News outlets and social media platforms were inundated with some of Ali’s most memorable quotes, including “the service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” It is this spirit of service and giving back to the community that drives many of the middle school students participating in NCLR’s youth leadership program, CASA-Cultura, Aprendizaje, Servicio, Acción (Culture, Learning, Service, Action). The goal of this service-learning program is to equip students with the necessary skills to identify genuine needs in the Latino community and address them through a two-pronged approach of academic learning and service actions.

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NCLR Affiliates Make the Case for Education Reform in Washington

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:

Kevin Sanchez at the U.S. Capitol

“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

Jennifer Reyes and others from the Latin American Coalition.

“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

Karen Gomez

Karen Gomez

“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.

Answering Your Questions on Youth and the Affordable Care Act

The latest installment in our Instagram Q&A video series on the Affordable Care Act answers a question from Diana in California. Thanks for sending in your submission, Diana!

Question: By when do I need to register college age individuals, graduating the coming fall 2014, and losing college sponsored health insurance?


Want us to answer your questions about the new health care law? All you have to do is fill out this mobile-friendly form. We’ll take it from there! Keep those questions coming!

Visit our YouTube channel for a more detailed response to this question.

Let’s Give Our Children a More Certain Future This Holiday Season

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR, and Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus

The New Year usually symbolizes an opportunity for new beginnings and growth, but American households face a very different reality in 2013. On January 2, the fiscal cliff will leave many families with $2,000 less to put food on the table, or even a roof over their children’s heads, unless Congress comes to a budget agreement this month.

The fiscal cliff’s automatic, across-the-board budget cuts come at a time when children and their families are already struggling. Kids are facing the highest levels of poverty since the Great Depression, and Latino children are faring the worst: about 1-in-3 Hispanic kids live in poverty today. If sequestration goes into effect, federal funding for kids will be cut by an additional $6.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2013.

Children represent the largest constituency of Americans who would be impacted by the fiscal cliff at 30 percent of the U.S. population. And Latino children now make up nearly 1-in-4 children under the age of 18, and are critically important to our nation’s future. An analysis from NCLR (National Council of La Raza) highlights what sequestration means for our kids:

  • 96,000 children will not be served by Head Start, including 34,000 Latino kids
  • 80,000 children will not receive the Child Care Development Block Grant, including 16,000 Hispanic children
  • 1.8 million low-income public school students will not receive extra reading and math help because of cuts to Title I. The 37 percent of Latino kids who attend high-poverty schools could be affected by these cuts.

We saw from the recent presidential election that Latinos, as a voting bloc, highly favor greater investment in all our children. At 10 percent of the electorate and over 12 million voters, the historic turnout of Hispanic voters is a critical factor in urging politicians to take action for kids. A nationwide election eve poll released by Lake Research Partners on behalf of First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) shows overwhelming support from Latino voters for a wide range of federal investments in America’s children at levels higher than voters of all demographics and political affiliations.

The damage sequestration would mean to kids is simply unacceptable to Hispanic voters and the public at-large that broadly supports raising revenue and oppose budget cuts that impact kids. Latino children are one of the fastest growing segments of kids in school. Cutting programs that contribute to their development and ensure they are prepared to meet the requisites of a future labor market would not only hurt their personal future success but undercut the strength and competitiveness of the nation’s economy. This is not lost on Hispanic voters who consistently list education and children’s issues at the top of their priority list.

In another poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of FFCC, the majority of American voters disapprove of Congress making budget cuts to an array of children’s programs, including: education (75-24%), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (74-17%), Medicaid (73-27%), child abuse and neglect (66-33%), the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (63-34%), student loans and financial aid for college students (59-40%), Head Start (59-40%), and child care (54-44%).

Despite the popularity of investing in America’s next generation, discretionary spending on children has declined by about $2 billion since 2010. Children have borne a disproportionate share of the spending reduction to combat the federal deficit. In fact, the share of federal spending going to kids fell six percent in the past year.

The budget and impending sequestration clearly do not align with our children’s needs, and what voters want. Kids and their families deserve better. Let’s hold our lawmakers accountable. Contact your representative and tell them to keep kids off the table.

Now It’s Personal: Viewing the Fiscal Cliff from the Perspective of Youth

By Mario Enríquez, Líderes Associate, NCLR

The fiscal cliff has been a hot topic in recent weeks.  From the TV screen to endless posts on our newsfeeds, we can see that the fiscal cliff will not be good for anyone, especially youth.  As a young person you may ask yourself, “What is the fiscal cliff and how exactly does it affect me?”  Some might say, “Why should I care about this?”  The reason is simple:  Out of all the demographic groups in this country, young people will feel the impact of the fiscal cliff the longest, not only now but for decades to come.  Yes, many of us may not earn enough right now to potentially lose $2,000 in taxes, but we should consider how this will affect us down the road.

Failing to avert the fiscal cliff will only exacerbate the already deep hole we are digging for ourselves with our national student debt and our unemployment rate.  As a member of the Millennial Generation, I have seen my friends struggle to find a job that fits their career goals. Black and Latino youth, who are the fast-growing segments of our young people, are suffering unemployment rates of 23% and 18% respectively.”  These rates are much too high, and we cannot bear the burden of inaction from Congress.

We grew up believing in the notion of the American Dream, that if we work hard we can succeed and prosper in America.  We have aimed to achieve this dream for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities.  We know the value of hard work and are ready to join the workforce in our respective fields.  Young people across this country should not have to worry about massive student debt.  We need to start holding the Obama administration and Congress accountable to ensure that we, too, have a fair shot at pursuing the American Dream.

I ask you to think about your personal situation and what life would be like if you didn’t have opportunities to succeed.  What would that mean for you?  We are the leaders of today and tomorrow, and I know that if we stand our ground and make our voices heard, Congress will listen.  We need to start taking action not just for ourselves but also for our families who we fight for every single day.  Let’s get out there and show the power we have as rising leaders in this country!

Fiscal Cliff Will Add to Texas Education Budget Woes

By José Ibarra,Texas Field Organizer and Capacity-Building Strategist, NCLR

For Texas, a state that experienced a $27 billion shortfall during the last legislative session and cut $5.4 billion from the state education budget, going over the fiscal cliff will add yet another problem to an already contentious issue.  Of the education funds slashed in 2011, $1.4 billion was cut from grants and discretionary spending that largely impacted full-day pre-k, parent engagement, bilingual, after-school, credit recovery, and dropout prevention programs—all of which are largely attended by students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including many Latinos.

Should lawmakers in Washington, DC fail to resolve the fiscal cliff, the Texas budget will fall short by more than $1 billion.  Over half that amount will come out of an already taxed education budget in a state where 62% of the student population is composed of racial or ethnic minorities.

A further cut of slightly more than $1 billion could translate into further job and program losses, including the firing of 1,400 teaching and educational support jobs.  This would come on top of 25,000 layoffs for teachers and support staff in 2011 and 2012, despite an increase of approximately 332,000 students in the last four years.  Most of the service cuts will come from Title I grants and special needs programs, which already operate on limited funds and affect underprivileged students.

The bottom line is that Texas cannot afford additional financial strains, especially with regard to the education budget that already saw drastic cuts in 2011 and prompted six lawsuits in state courts surrounding school finance.  It is our obligation to urge federal lawmakers to resolve the fiscal cliff and prevent further cuts to the programs and services that affect the well-being of our children, our state, our economy, and our country.

Looking at Health Through the Eyes of Our Youth

Judith Santibanez is one of the youth exhibiting this Saturday.

Growing up in neighborhoods where green spaces are almost nonexistent and food choices amount to bodegas and takeout menus makes eating and living healthy much harder.  Making the conscious decision to live a more balanced lifestyle is certainly commendable, but it only works when the necessary elements are available and accessible.  For too many Latino communities, those elements are not in place and families are forced to choose from unhealthy options that only worsen the burgeoning obesity and diabetes rates among Hispanics, especially our youth.

It’s going to take Latinos working together to ensure that our kids live long, healthy lives.  That’s why we’ve teamed up with Sodexo, ConAgra Foods, and two of our Affiliates, Alivio Medical Center and Gads Hill Center, to present Reflejos de mi comunidad:  comida y estilo de vida (Reflections of My Community:  Food and Lifestyle), a project designed to assess the barriers that prevent low-income, inner-city Latino youth from healthy eating and active living.  The project also aims to engage parents in creating a healthy lifestyle for their whole family.  And we’re starting this weekend!

On Saturday, we’re hosting a community event at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.  We’ll be showcasing a youth photo exhibit that Chicago teens have produced to illustrate the challenges they face in accessing healthy foods.  You’ll have an opportunity to meet some of the students themselves and you’ll get to know more about what we do to improve the health of our Latino youth.

Check out the photos below of some of the other youth who will be exhibiting. Come see the rest on Saturday!


Jessica Hernandez


Mohammed Mohammed


Junior Flores, Eddie Ramirez and “Marie”