LULAC Virtual Summit 2020: Tapping Technology to Overcome COVID-19

Posted on 08/21/2020 @ 11:00 AM

Tags: LULAC Virtual Summit

The LULAC Virtual Summit last week successfully connected members and allies of the nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization via the internet. It was a three-day state-of-the-art event that brought together thousands of participants for what may well be a preview of the future in LULAC’s advocacy.

More than 80 expert speakers filled 30-plus hours of presentations, panel discussions and training workshops. One of the summit highlights was the compelling conversation with Dr. Jill Biden, the country’s former Second Lady and wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. She was on a panel with two Latino congressional leaders and a labor advocate for nurses examining the impact COVID-19 is having on Latinos. 

“There is power in kindness and this helps to build the bonds of communities during our difficult times,” said Dr. Biden. Then, she outlined how her husband, if elected, will activate what she called his Plan for Recovery which would create millions of jobs and help essential workers in all frontline sectors with free testing and more assistance. The panel agreed it will take all Americans coming together to rebuild the nation’s economic, education and health systems which have been strained beyond their limits during the pandemic. Dr. Biden concluded by saying that how America recovers from COVID-19 will be a reflection of the nation’s vision, character and stamina.

Julian Castro, former presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development addressed the summit in a separate conversation focusing on Democracy in action. “Our Latino community is in a state of emergency,” he said. “If we want people, young and old to get excited and get out to vote, then elected officials must deliver results,” he added. Secretary Castro also spoke of four million Latinos who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act under President Barack Obama. He added this is in sharp contrast to President Trump who is targeting Latinos, especially immigrants. “The bright spot though,” said Castro, “is that this awoke young people because of how divisive our country has become. Our job now is voter registration and getting people to the polls.”

Another important conversation highlighted the state of the civil rights struggle in the United States and included leaders of LULAC, NAACP, National Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “You are the people who can make change happen,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President told the audience. “We can close the baby jails that are still open in 2020,” he added. Garcia recalled the day he stood in front of an ICE bus in McAllen, Texas and saw children five and six years old being transported to a detention center, their little hands on steel bars. “Tu voto cuenta,” said Garcia. His words were echoed by the other panelists who called Black Lives Matter, the civil rights movement of the 21st century and accused the Trump Administration of having breached the contract of the Constitution.

Equally significant was the timely examination of the United States military and veterans affairs. A panel of retired female officers said that trust in the branches of the military has been lost over the death of Ft. Hood Army Private Vanessa Guillen. Latinos see service in the military as a source of pride and those with whom their sons or daughters are serving become their second family. They called for several steps to be taken if the military hopes to regain public trust. These include increasing training for both men and women to prevent military sexual harassment (MST). Also, change must begin at the highest ranks so that other soldiers will take reforms seriously. Another action the panel recommended is that reporting of sexual misconduct must be to an entity outside of the military. A major conclusion the panel reached was that even with these reforms, it will take time for Latino families to again trust the military enough to be willing to support their children’s desire to join the service.

To see the panels or the entire summit, go to our playlist of live-streamed videos available on demand at our Facebook page.

In Precision Medicine We Trust

Posted on 06/16/2020 @ 10:00 AM

During the 2015 State of the Union, President Barack Obama announced a movement that would invest in America's most important assets, YOU. With a $215 million budget, he launched the Precision Medicine Initiative, focused on bringing together our community and professions for the betterment of our nation. President Obama spoke about learning to value the brilliance in this country and to “harness what is most special about America, our spirit of innovation.” With bipartisan support, we were able to continue the research into “precision medicine [that] gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we've ever seen.”

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health made history by advocating toward improving health in our country through precision medicine rather than continuing our current to implement a one-size-fits-all health care system. This is why the All of Us Research Program participants and partners continue to work toward precision medicine, to “improve the lives of men, women, and children, for generations to come.” Two years later, we are continuing the movement “to keep ourselves and our families healthy.”

LULAC is celebrating the All of Us Research Program’s second anniversary since its national launch. As a part of the program’s Community and Provider Gateway Initiative, our organization serves as a partner with a rich history of grassroots work in the Latino community, LULAC is proud to work together toward improving health for future generations by creating educational activities that raise awareness and by inviting our community to participate.

It is so critical for Latinos to be well represented in medical research to ensure our community benefits from future medical advances in treatments and prevention strategies to enjoy healthier and longer lives. Since 2018, LULAC has helped the program engage more than 5,000 Latinos across the United States through several community events in many states, as well as at the national level through our social media platforms and through in-person community engagements such as cafecitos and hosting the All of Us Journey -the program’s mobile exhibit unit traveling across the country.

Thus far, the program has been quite successful in engaging diverse communities, in great part, because of the community partnerships, like the one with LULAC the program established from the very beginning of this journey. With 350,000 participants from across the country already enrolled in the program, more than 80% are from communities that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. Over 52% are from racially and ethnically diverse groups, including Latinos. But we know there is more work to be done to get to the program’s goal of enrolling 1 million or more participants that reflect the reach diversity of our country.

LULAC recognizes that medical research has never felt more urgent than it does right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead of waiting for change, we want to actively be the change. That’s why we’re glad to announce that the All of Us Research Program has created a way for All of Us participants to help advance COVID-19 research through the COVID-19 Participant Experience (COPE) survey.

By taking this survey and telling All of Us how you’re doing, you can help researchers learn more about COVID-19 and its effect on physical and mental health. When you signed up for the All of Us Research Program, you showed that you care about helping improve health for your family, your community, and the world. Taking this survey is a great way to make a difference today.

These are stressful and unprecedented times for everyone. A lot of people feel like they don’t know what to do, or how to help. Taking this survey is a great way to start. Your answers will help researchers learn more about COVID-19 and the way it affects our health and lives in the short and long term. Now, more than ever, we’re all in this together. By taking this 20-30-minute survey, you could help researchers learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting our health, wellbeing, daily lives, and communities. To get started, log in to your All of Us account or sign up today to take part in this historic program that may change the future of health for all.

Turning Dreams into Reality LULAC and Ford Motor Company Fund’s Ford Driving Dreams Celebrates Ten Years!

Posted on 06/04/2020 @ 01:30 PM

Somewhere in communities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, there are over 2,500 men and women whose lives were changed by their participation in LULAC and Ford Motor Company Fund’s Ford Driving Dreams Program during the past ten years. 2020 marks a decade of service for one of our most enduring and successful partnerships that has seen the investment of more than $1.6 million by Ford Fund into the academic future of Latino youths at a time when 1-in-5 persons in America is Latino, a ratio that will go to 1-in-3 by 2060.

From California to Florida, Puerto Rico to Wisconsin, and in every region in-between, LULAC has reached into our nation’s public schools and community-based organizations to extend resources to at risk high school students. Through this two-year program, students receive access to tutoring, mentoring, college prep, career exploration, STEM workshops, and much more. Today, the participating students are excelling and have the lowest dropout rate ever among their contemporaries and the fastest-growing enrollment in community colleges and other institutions of higher learning. Still, there is work to do according to data compiled by Pew Research. In 2016, the high school dropout rate among Hispanics remained higher at 10% compared to their White (5%), Asian (3%), and Black (7%) counterparts.

“The Ford Driving Dreams Program is truly one of the most sought after by our councils in California,” says Yvonne Gonzalez-Duncan, LULAC California State Director. “This unique mentorship, personal development and team-building project over a two-year span allows students to grow in their abilities and skills, forms lasting friendships, and engenders self-confidence which is essential to their long-term academic success. Our experience has been that students who complete the Ford Driving Dreams journey emerge transformed, excited about their futures and eager to get started,” she adds.

The power of the program’s curriculum is its emphasis on impacting confidence in students that they can achieve their career goal, and providing role models with whom they can identify to make the experience meaningful for each of them. In addition, students receive personal tutoring support focused on areas that will impact admission opportunities to higher learning institutions, while also benefiting them through immediate academic improvement. Equally as important is empowering students with leadership development through the sharing of their personal journeys, goals and discussions about individual challenges they may be facing. Other workshops help participants learn about education and career pathways in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) which are often areas these students didn’t consider attainable for them. Perhaps the single most popular aspect of the Ford Driving Dreams program is the chance to explore college opportunities and even visit campuses which is often an eye-opening experience.

“This is truly an opportunity too good to pass up,” says Lupe Martinez, LULAC Wisconsin State Director. “Just look at the results. 95% of the students regularly participating in the program will achieve an on-time promotion rate to the next grade. 90% of the project’s 25 participants, who graduate high school, will enroll in a post-secondary institution. 75% of students will retain or improve their overall GPAs. 50% of the project’s participants will reduce their number of absences. In addition, many of the students served become first-generation high school and college graduates. There’s no question that Ford Driving Dreams delivers on its promise of boosting our young scholars into better lives through education and career opportunities,” he adds.

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis, Ford Fund and LULAC have adapted the Ford Driving Dreams Program to respond diligently to the rapidly changing situation while continuing to serve Latino communities across the nation.

“We’re excited to announce that LULAC and Ford are introducing a new dimension to this already very successful program and one which we know will make an even deeper impact,” says Sindy Benavides, LULAC National Chief Executive Officer. “The Ford Driving Dreams program will now also provide COVID-19 relief to address the increased needs of Latino students and families during the pandemic. Our goal is to continue to strengthen our youth’s academic and personal support systems, and LULAC is looking forward to supporting them in these uncertain times,” says Benavides.

In collaboration, Ford Fund and LULAC are providing (50) $2,000 COVID-19 response grants to LULAC councils in the Ford Driving Dreams Network. These grants will support councils as they provide relief to their local communities in the following areas: food insecurity, mobility and transportation needs, technology resources, mental health, mentoring and online educational resources. The Ford Driving Dreams Program continues its legacy of driving the education of our nation’s youth further as we transition and adapt to online learning models.

LULAC and Ford Fund have forged a lasting partnership built upon the simple but enduring truth that educational opportunities are the gateway to realizing America’s promise to all. In just ten years, LULAC has seen 94% of the program’s graduates go on to enroll in a higher education. Already, more than 15,000 hours have been donated by volunteers and mentors in local initiatives. This is a testament to the more than 5,000 volunteers and mentors plus the 2,200 parents who have joined to help make a difference. So far, 82 Ford Driving Dreams programs hosted by LULAC councils and educational partners across 25 states and Puerto Rico have celebrated the experience of driving their dreams, and we’re just getting started. Now, it’s your turn and happy 10th anniversary to Ford Driving Dreams!

Young Latinas Leading the Future in STEAM

Posted on 11/19/2019 @ 11:46 AM

By Melissa Cossio, Program Coordinator

2019 marked a significant year for the partnership between LULAC and Spectrum. Together, they established the Latina LEADS program in Austin, Texas, an impactful initiative for Hispanic middle school-aged girls designed to increase their exposure to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) fields of study and careers.

Although women have made significant strides in education and economic security, statistics show that Hispanic women still lag behind compared to their counterparts in STEAM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, while women comprise 25% of the science and technology workforce, Hispanic women represent only 3% of this workforce. LULAC recognizes that in order to prepare our young women to break into in-demand tech careers, we must start early. This means promoting better career opportunities through education and mentoring at a young age. Latina LEADS puts its focus on middle school Hispanic female students as they are in a formative phase in their lives and are more susceptible to adopt a growth mindset.

“This program is a dream in the making to expand the opportunities young women leaders need to build a solid foundation in the STEAM fields. We need the minds of bright young women and the support of family to transform our communities. Through this initiative, Spectrum and LULAC are thrilled to support efforts to increase Latina representation in STEAM fields of study and careers and we are grateful to have all our participants along in this long-term journey,” says Sindy M. Benavides, LULAC’s Chief Executive Officer.

The program provides participants with the opportunity to take part in STEAM-focused workshops, tech-industry job shadowing, mentorship opportunities, access to academic and career guidance, leadership development, and more. The 2019 pilot cohort welcomed three partner organizations to implement the program. The recipients included Latinitas, LNESC-Austin, and Sarah Lively Middle School PTA.

For more information about the Latina LEADS program, visit

Latinitas - Austin, TX

Latinitas, whose mission is to “empower all girls to innovate through media and technology,” serves more than 3,000 girls across Texas every year through their after-school clubs, workshops, and conferences. They recognize the challenges faced by Latinas and the lack of inclusivity in STEAM fields of study and careers and is working adamantly to break down those barriers. The success of their programs has been demonstrated by their alumni high school graduation rate of 93%. In addition, they graduate 50% more STEM majors than the national average for girls.

Latinitas joined the Latina LEADS family with a program that incorporates weekly lessons in coding, game and app design, 360 filmmaking, virtual and augmented reality production, and drone technology in addition to mentorship opportunities with professionals in various STEM sectors. Their culturally sensitive programming will not only teach girls important tools to become knowledgeable of the many STEAM fields, but will also deliver lessons in cultural history, identity, empowerment, social and emotional learning.

"An opportunity like LULAC and Spectrum's Latina LEADS program let's an organization like Latinitas do what we do best - teach technology to girls on their terms" said Gabryella Desporte, Latinitas Program Coordinator. "We get frustrated when we hear that call to action that ‘girls of color need to get into tech' when we know they are and they are good at it. They, though, need to see mentors like themselves teaching it and projects that speak to their desire to improve the world or support their community. Latinitas creates that environment."

To learn more about Latinitas, visit Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest program updates!

LULAC National Educational Service Centers, Inc. - Austin, TX

LNESC-Austin’s mission is to “elevate the student experience.” Through their mission, they strive to help students achieve academically while also giving them the chance to travel beyond the classroom to discover their strengths, and use those strengths to excel at the university and their future careers. Serving over 500 primarily low-income and first-generation students each year, LNESC-Austin offers college readiness resources including SAT prep, FAFSA guidance, college applications assistance, and scholarship awareness along with career guidance services such as resume building workshops, mock interviews, networking and job seeking tips, industry professionals as guest speakers, and a variety of field trips. LNESC-Austin’s success is reflected in their 100% graduation rate amongst their senior students during the 2018 fiscal year.

"We are so thankful and enthusiastic to have this opportunity for LNESC-Austin because of all the young women's lives we are impacting. This program provides girls the opportunity to have a role model whose skin tone resembles their skin tone and is there to empower them and show them they can accomplish their dreams no matter how hard it is or what their background may be. That is why this program matters, we spark the fire within them that they might have never realized they had," shares Magaly Maldonado Lopez, Program Coordinator for the Latina LEADS program at LNESC-Austin.

Their Latina LEADS program is guided through a focus on foundational robotics. During the initial workshops, students learn the basics of robotics before proceeding to a more challenging curriculum. The fun-focused workshops help students develop critical thinking skills, build their self-esteem and empower them to become more involved in STEAM-fields. In addition, LNESC-Austin is working with local universities and corporations to provide field trips and off-site workshops led by leaders in STEAM-industries such as Apple and Samsung.

To learn more about LNESC-Austin, visit Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest program updates!

Lively Middle School PTA

Sarah Lively Middle School has served the Austin, Texas community since its founding in 1886. It’s mission, “to provide educational opportunities that inspire global thinking and social responsibility,” is met through diverse course offerings and rich extracurricular activities. Serving over 1,000 students and their families, their advanced academic classes and dual-language programming provides students with the tools to develop cognitively.

“As a new PTA board member, I was happy to learn of the LULAC Latina LEADS grant opportunity. Situated in the heart of South Congress, Lively serves a diverse mix of student populations and communities. Winning this grant provides exposure to rich programming in science and science related careers through student activities, collaboration, and off-site field trip experiences. We have so many interested candidates and I can’t wait to kick this off!” shares Laurie Solis, Lively Middle School PTA President. Middle School’s PTA has developed a Latina LEADS program aimed to immerse participants in the world outdoors while providing exposure to a variety of career opportunities within the fields of STEAM. Their focus on conservation of natural resources, geology, and watersheds programming is carried out through weekly meetings, workshops, and nature field trips. Through their Latina LEADS program, Lively Middle School PTA is working to increase student engagement and attendance as well as interest in the natural world around us.

To learn more about Sarah Lively Middle School PTA, visit Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest program updates!


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