Summit leaders trying to instill hope, pride in young Latinos

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers


Latino leaders from around the United States traveled to Portales to try to instill that in the young Hispanics of New Mexico during the first Latino Summit on the Eastern New Mexico University campus on Friday.

Approximately 500 high school students from Portales High School, Clovis High School, West Mesa High School, Espanola Valley High School, Roswell High School and other high schools in New Mexico attended the Latino summit for guidance and help in determining a path.

“I like when they were showing pride (about the Hispanic heritage),” Kristian Garza, Clovis High School sophomore, said. “They told us how they could help us.”

Garza said her parents have talked to her about the importance of an education and look out for opportunities.

“They tell me that people in the past didn’t have the opportunities we have today,” Garza said. “They tell me to take advantage of it.”

Christian Lozano who is the Leadership Program Associate for the National Council of La Raza in Washington D.C. encouraged the young Latinos to get an education and be prepared for leadership roles in the future of the United States.

“We need to keep our heads up,” Lozano told the Hispanic high school students. “Our people have overcome many things. Everyone here is a leader.”

Lozano told the high school students, a majority of which were Hispanic, that they would be called upon to work as CEOs, managers and other careers in leadership roles. She said in order for them to do that, they need to stay in school and go to college.

David Briseno, La Casita Elementary principal spoke during the morning session and Augustine Garcia, founder of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity presented in the afternoon.

Miguel Contreras, a Clovis High School Senior, said he receives encouragement to continue his education. Contreras said his principal, Jody Balch, encourages him to go to college. Contreras said he wants to go to college to be an architect.

“Augustine (Garcia) really caught my attention,” Contreras said about the summit. “The way he spoke, with a bold voice. He was reaching out and being encouraging.”

Autumn Skinner, a Clovis High School senior, has also chosen her path for the future. Skinner said she would like to go to Clovis Community College and enter the nursing school. Skinner said her mother and brother went into the field.

A big portion of the Hispanic population is young, in fact 34 percent of the Hispanic population is under the age of 18. The largest category of the Hispanic population is between the ages of birth and four years. Meanwhile the biggest category of the Non-Hispanic White population is between the ages of 40 to 44. Lozano said this shows a trend of the growing Hispanic population.

Lozano said 20 percent of Hispanics live in poverty and Hispanics have the highest college dropout rate.

“We need to understand our communities’ struggles,” Lozano said. “It’s not until we know where we come from that we can do anything about it. I was told by my high school counselor that I could not go to college. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t go to college.”

Lozano graduated from high school in 1999 and graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor’s degree in 2003.

The city of Portales is no different. The 2000 census showed the Hispanic population comprised 38 percent of the Portales population and 56 percent was White. However, in the Portales School District Hispanics and Whites comprise approximately 50 percent each, according to the latest district report.

Rep. Joe Campos, D-Santa Rosa told the high school students in attendance initially he didn’t want to go to college, but his father convinced him to go.

Statistics on Hispanics in the United States:
o There are more than 40 million Latinos in the United States, according to the 2000 U.S. census.

o Latinos grew 58 percent from 1990 to 2000.

o One out of eight Americans are of Hispanic origin.

o 66 percent of Hispanics are of Mexican origin.

o 21.2 million people of Mexican origin live in the United States.

o Florida, Texas, Illinois, California and New York compose 50 percent of the Latino population.

Growing trend in the United States:
o 34 percent of the Hispanic population is under the age of 18.

o The biggest category of the Hispanic population is between the ages of birth and four years.

o The biggest category of the Non-Hispanic White population is between the ages of 40 to 44.

Socioeconomic Status:
o 20 percent of Hispanics live in poverty, which is one-in-five.

o 7.4 percent of Non-Hispanic Whites live in poverty.

o Hispanics under the age of 18 are three times more likely than Non-Hispanic Whites to live in poverty.

o 18 percent of Latinos work under the age of 14, the highest among Non-Hispanic Whites and African-Americans.

o 30 percent of Latinos work under the age of 15.

o 72 percent of Latinas make less than $30,000 a year.

o Only 5.9 percent of Latinas make more than $50,000 a year.

o Latinos have the highest dropout rate, only one-in-ten have a college degree.

o More than 40 percent of Hispanics, age 25 and older didn’t graduate high school.

Courtesy of the National Council de La Raza