While attending American University this semester I was thrilled to discover that there was a complete spectrum of classes that were offered in Spanish AND that we had the option to complement our in class instruction with service learning with a variety of Latino serving organizations. As someone who was born in Mexico, but immigrated to the United States when I was only 5 years old, having the option to take courses designed for heritage learners has been a transformative experience. Through our coursework, I was exposed to the history, art, and culture of many Latin American countries, and given the opportunity to explore the historical context, along with the contemporary scholarship, that facilitated a unique depth of cross cultural exchange that I had never experienced growing up in Utah.
I chose to attend American University both because of its strong ties to decision makers in DC, but also because of the important research taking place on campus as a part of the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies. As someone who understands the unique circumstances that many immigrants face, and will face as a result of the policy priorities of the new administration, I have experienced a renewed sense of urgency to understand and promote the upward mobility and social and economic development of immigrants at the local and national level. With that in mind, I decided to partner with LULAC as a part of AU’s Community Service Learning Program (CSLP).
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the oldest and most widely respected Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States. Since its establishment in 1929, they have worked to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, and political influence of the Hispanic population across the country. Through their deep network of active LULAC members across the country they have consistently been on the forefront of developing innovative strategies dedicated to empower, mentor, and promote Latino leadership and representation at all levels of government.
Having worked with the local chapter in Utah, I was looking forward to the potential of contributing (if even in a small regard) to their impressive efforts nationwide. I also wanted to learn what I myself could be doing in my everyday life to combat the distorted and miss informed narratives about Latin American immigrants. As a part of AU’s CSLP, I was able to send 40 hours working with LULAC’s National Development Director David Perez, and gained valuable insight into what it takes to sustain its nationwide efforts. I was surprised to learn that although the Hispanic community represents an estimated 54 million people comprising nearly 17% of the population, corporate donors are still working to understand the power/impact/value of their investment. Specifically, how to quantify the return on their investment. As someone who has worked with several Latino organizations I can attest to the tremendous positive impact that donations of any kind have on building the capacity of organizations working with one of the most underserved communities in our country—especially one with a combined buying power of over $1.3 trillion.
Working with David helped me understand how corporate philanthropy not only promotes the upward economic mobility of the Latino community, but also creates long-term financial value, customer loyalty, and employee engagement within the funding corporation. Working with LULAC and David helped me understand how the most important thing that anyone of us can do (if we are truly invested in improving conditions for the Latino community) is to pull out our wallets and make a donation. Through my CSLP experience with LULAC I was able to do targeted donor research, help with and attend their National Legislative Conference and Gala, and network with the dynamic and dedicated staff of the organization. I definitely plan to take advantage of the CSLP learning program the next couple of semester to work with other Latino organizations in DC area and to keep in touch with my newfound friend at LULAC.