Comprehensive immigration reform, holding banks accountable, empowering entrepreneurs and education reform were some of the top issues discussed by community leaders Saturday at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at Evergreen Valley College.
The day-long conference–attended by elected officials, non-profit leaders, education administrators and activists in the Latino community in Silicon Valley–was designed to get attendees to collaborate on a set of initiatives that will be presented to officials in President Barack Obama’s administration. These will be used to build a comprehensive agenda for Hispanic community empowerment, according to Hilda Ramirez, director of communications for the California Hispanic Professional Association, who teamed up with the White House for the event.
"This event is for White House officials to hear about initiatives and key issues that are at the top of the list in the Latino community," Ramirez said. "Officials have provided an open space for community leaders to come together and collaborate on long conversations and make resolutions to issues in their community."
Over 500 participants collaborated in a conversation where they identified challenges facing the Latino community and set small groups for attendees to break into to discuss solutions that were posted onto the policy social networking site www.laplaza.net.
Alum Rock Union Elementary School District Trustee Delores Marquez expressed her concern with losing nearly 1,000 students to new charter schools that have come into her district and retaining current students with updated technology for instruction in the education reform.
“We’ve lost so many students from our district to charter schools, we’ve lost money from the state from average daily attendance, Marquez said. “I have to worry about 11,000 students while I lose 1,000. We need to keep our students by giving them choices and providing them with new tools for instruction.”
The recommendations and solutions were added to a master document on a large projector screen in real-time fashion and was updated throughout the day.
Gilroy Unified School District Trustee Fred Tovar, who works as the Director of Admissions for the School of Medicine at Stanford University, shared his frustration for the lack of Latino students who apply for the program and asked for ways to reach out to prospective students.
“I cannot get Latinos apply for the program, and it’s really disheartening” Tovar said. “We have programs that are designed for underserved kids like an MCAT preparedness course and students are not taking advantage of it.”
Evergreen Valley College Chancellor Rita Cepeda said the community college system needs to continue to fight for more funding from the state.
“We must not close the door to community college education, we are struggling to keep programs alive with three, four and five million in cuts,” she said. “We need to keep the voice alive.”
Saturday’s summit was part of a series of several conferences being held all over the country for White House administrators to get an in-depth perspective of regional issues that are challenging the Latino community.