By Laura Haight
Where do we want to be in five or 10 years? That’s the question the Hispanic Alliance asked the members and partners who participated in its 2018 Summit on Saturday to consider.
The event, held at downtown’s Zen on Saturday May 19, brought together active members, community partners and residents, and students.
Led by Executive Director Adela Mendoza, and facilitated by Design Thinkers Group, this was not a listening session. This was roll-up-your-sleeves, pull-your-tables-together, and get-to-work session.
“The Hispanic community you see today is not the same as the Hispanic community of 10 years ago,” said Mendoza. “Our community has evolved as we have achieved connectivity among people across cultures and languages.”
The journey to success, in the organization’s view, starts with inequality, to equity where help is given to lift people so they can participate in their communities on equal footing, to empowerment where we give to others, and success, where barriers no longer have to be overcome because they no longer exist. “And people access the same opportunities, because the barriers are no longer there,” Mendoza said.
To help envision this future and the path to reach it, the attendees split up into groups. Armed with Post-Its and Sharpies, the attendees were charged with personifying the organization and defining it within the past, present and future. The future group presented a bold vision: “We have super powers. Our super power is that as we touch people, as we move through this journey, we are able to pass all the knowledge that we have to each person. .. Our goals are to grow outside of the area.. we are going to different parts of the country and the world. We will be more diverse, and be more visible. We will inspire families and hope that everyone would be legal and could all be part of the American Dream.”
That vision was reflected by Mendoza’s remarks. “We want to be able to disappear,” she said. “All people will access the same opportunities because the barriers aren’t there.”
That dream may seem far away now, but the Alliance is continuing to work toward it with four key team – Health, Education, Legal, and Financial – that reported on 2017 achievements and 2018 goals.
Education: Mentored 390 Hispanic high school students through Lunch and Learn visits last year, trained 70 counselors through a collaboration with the county school system, to work with DACA students, and held a college fair. Expansion of these events, by adding more capacity to the team, is planned to more effectively reach Hispanic students throughout the Upstate this year. A pilot program call Student DREAMers Alliance to cultivate leadership and advocacy will be supported by the organization. And information dissemination to make sure educators have accurate information on the ever-shifting landscape of immigration policy will also be organized.
Health: The major effort was a health fair last year that served 140 clients, donated 200 boxes of food, provided flu vaccinations, blood pressure and glucose checks. The team also started a cooking class to show participants how to cook healthy. For 2018, an expansion of the cooking class is planned, with an emphasis on diabetes. The health fair will also be expanded to include an emphasis on mental health
Legal: The alliance’s citizenship workshops, helped 35 immigrants complete citizenship applications. Volunteers provided $25,000 in pro bono support. Additionally, DACA workshops were held and the legal team joined the education team’s Lunch and Learn program.
Financial: Financial literacy classes were started with volunteer instructors from the community. 12 participants graduated from that program. There were also financial workshops offered during the college fair. 2018 goals include creating a mentoring program for prospective startups to work with experienced and successful Hispanic business people. A Spanish-language business workshop is in the planning stages as is a Spanish-language financial literacy class.
The alliance works with many partners and volunteers throughout the Upstate. Learn more about the organization and how to get involved by visiting their website.