How Rising Latino Artists Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler Have Made Their Dreams Come True
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Rising Latino Artists Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler

By Alvin Blanco, Genius

It’s all about talent, education, and the willingness to take risks. Music is meant to inspire, and a new wave of fresh, exciting, ridiculously talented Latino artists understands this fact.

Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler are up-and-coming singer-songwriters with the talent and desire to achieve greatness. This next class of stars succeeded by tapping into education to make their dreams come true—and they’ve inspired their fans and followers in the process.

The three artists embody the spirit of the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship, established in 1985. The goal of the scholarship is to help Latino students break barriers and make their parents and those around them proud. Over the years, McDonald’s has helped more than 17,000 Latino students—and given out more than $32 million—through the HACER program. The initiative is especially important in tough times like we’re facing now. Given the state of the world, it’s crucial for young people to keep moving forward and do more.

Isabel, Rogers, and Wheeler are certainly moving in the right direction. But they come from different places and represent the breadth of the Latino diaspora. Isabel grew up in Queens, New York, as the daughter of parents from the Dominican Republic, while Wheeler was born and raised in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Rogers, who is half Mexican on her mother’s side, held down the West Coast, growing up in Lodi, California. They all knew early on that creating music was in their future.

Dreams of rocking stages don’t always line up with the plans of parents who want more practical, and safer, careers for their children. Isabel, who dropped her debut EP, Stuck In The Sky, in October 2020, seamlessly blends her Dominican ancestry’s bachata and merengue with R&B and hip-hop and her lush vocals. She is particularly thankful that her parents had no issue supporting her aspirations.

“My parents took four-year-old me seriously when I said I was going to become a singer,” says Isabel, who attended NYU. “They never argued with that dream or told me I had to be anything different. Obviously, I had to go to school, get good grades, and all that stuff, but it was never a matter of like, pick something. I think with any first-generation kid watching your parents make sacrifices or work extra hours or whatever it may be to make it possible for you to do what you want to do, I think that was the biggest motivating force to be successful.”

While Isabel’s parents had faith in her talents, Wheeler’s classmates in school were less kind. The reggaeton crooner has spoken candidly about the bullying he faced, but he was still able to persevere and become a certified star. By posting his music on the Internet, Wheeler jump started his career. Fans dubbed him “La Voz Favorita,” and he earned praise and hands-on guidance from reggaeton legend DJ Nelson, who executive produced his two critically acclaimed albums: 2019’s Platónico and 2020’s Platónicos.

Those school bullies couldn’t knock Wheeler off his path. “I always loved music [but] I knew that it was going to be hard,” he says. “Living for something that you love is harder. I learned English in school and watching TV and movies. I knew at some point in my life I wanted to do something in the English world because [I have] a lot of respect for American music. A lot of kids [take education] for granted—I don’t know need to learn this, I don’t need to learn that—but when you get older, you realize that all the things that they gave you, you do need to educate yourself in everything, because life puts you in a different position everyday.”

Click here to read the full article on Genius.

First Latina to go to space announces bilingual STEAM board book series
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Dr Ellen ochoa smiling and posing in front of a gray background for the camera. She is wearing a blue button up. Ochoa is writing a STEAM board book series

By The Downey Patriot

Lil’ Libros Publishing has acquired world rights to a bilingual five-board book STEAM series, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World, researched and written by Dr. Ellen Ochoa, American engineer who became the first Latina woman to go to space.

Inspired by her experiences as a NASA astronaut, Dr. Ochoa’s books will celebrate the joy of scientific curiosity, the fundamentals of STEAM topics, and the American Latino experience for the youngest of readers.

“I wish I had known when I was little that science [or STEAM] is all about curiosity and creativity,” said Dr. Ochoa. “Those skills come naturally to young kids, and I hope this series engages kids and parents alike, in both English and Spanish, about STEAM concepts and excites them about exploring the world they inhabit.”

“We are excited to work alongside Dr. Ochoa to help create an environment where our littlest readers are introduced to STEAM concepts confidently and in two languages,” said Patty Rodriguez, publisher at Lil’ Libros. “Becoming a scientist is no longer just a dream for our children, it is a possibility and Dr. Ellen Ochoa is an example of that.”

“It is an honor to welcome Dr. Ellen Ochoa to the Lil’ Libros family. Bringing bilingual STEAM topics to children will open a world of possibilities,” added Ariana Stein, Lil’ Libros co-founder. “We are confident that Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World will inspire curiosity and leave a lasting impact on children.”

Publication for the first book, Dr. Ochoa’s Stellar World: We Are All Scientists, is set for August 30, 2022.

Lil’ Libros is a bilingual children’s book publisher based out of Los Angeles. In a world lacking bilingual books for children, two best friends-turned-mothers – Patty Rodriguez, of Downey, and Ariana Stein – began their mission to celebrate the duality of the American Latino experience through picture board books and now hardcovers.

Click here to read the full article on The Downey Patriot.

Latinx? Latino? Hispanic? A linguistics expert explains the confusion
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latinx language dictionary pointing to the spanish word for grammar (gramatica)

The many pan-ethnic labels used to describe the group of people who trace their roots to Latin America or Spain — terms like Hispanic, Latino, Latinx or Latine — have left some confused, some angry and many people debating what word to use.

Hispanic and Latino remain the dominant terms to refer to people from this group, according to the Pew Research Center, but a term growing in the public consciousness is Latinx, a gender-neutral version of the masculine and feminine words for Latino and Latina. But the term has been criticized by some Latinos and Latino organizations who call the term elitist and non-inclusive.

ABC News spoke with language researcher, author and TikTok sensation Dr. Jose Medina about why it’s so hard to describe such a vast, complex group of people in a single term.

“As an openly queer, Latinx, Latine, Spanglish-speaking language researcher of the world, to me that intersectionality is really, really important,” said Medina.

“The reason why that’s so important is that no one really gets to choose how somebody self-identifies,” he added.

For nonbinary, gender-fluid, queer people and others, Latinx is an inclusive term that rejects the gender binary. It can also be used to refer to a group of people without using the masculine- or feminine-dominant pronouns.

Others have criticized the term because they say it “anglicized” the Spanish language, ignores the language’s roots, and “is not representative of the larger Latino community,” according to a Pew Research Center survey.

“There is no definite beginning to the term Latinx here in the United States. Some people feel like it started to appear in academia, specifically Latinx writers, around 2004,” said Medina. “But the truth is that there are others that point to scholars and researchers in Puerto Rico, in Central America, South America and other parts of the Caribbean that were actually using the ‘X’ and also the ‘at’ sign to be more inclusive in their studies and in their work.”

Only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino had heard of the term Latinx, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center poll.

And a recent Gallup poll found that 4% of people surveyed preferred “Latinx” as the label of choice to describe their ethnic group.

Recently, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Hispanic and Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., and Congressman Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., stated that they would no longer use the term Latinx because it was offensive to some and failed to prove that it had a wide acceptance.

When Latino politicos use the term it is largely to appease white rich progressives who think that is the term we use,” Gallego tweeted last month.

Medina, however, disagrees.

“There are a lot of folks that actually are saying that the Latinx term should not be used because it cannot be conjugated in Español. But the truth is that, if we really stop to think about it, we were colonized from the moment that the Spaniards came to the Americas and took away Indigenous tongues,” said Medina. “All of these attacks on really utilizing and leveraging linguistic liberation as a way to value intersectionality — [it’s] something that each and every one of us should defend, not oppose.”

The word is mostly known and used by younger Hispanics — 42% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29 knew the term, but only 7% of those ages 65 or older have heard of the term, Pew reports.

Click here to read the full article on ABC News.

Warriors Name Jennifer Vasquez As Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
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Jennifer Vasquez headshot

The Golden State Warriors have named Jennifer Vasquez (she/her) as the team’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, it was recently announced. Vasquez brings over 15 years of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work experience to the franchise. She will play a central role in the continuation of the team’s internal and external DEI strategy, including oversight of the design, management and measurement of the team’s DEI strategy.

Vasquez will be responsible for the company’s DEI trainings and collaborate on strategic recruiting and hiring practices through a DEI lens. Additionally, she will lead the franchise’s established Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, which launched several years ago, and the ecosystem of employee resource groups (ERGs). Vasquez will report to Warriors Senior Vice President of People Operations and Culture, Erin Dangerfield.

“Jennifer has a proven track record driving strategies around corporate diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Warriors President & Chief Operating Officer Brandon Schneider. “In the creation of this role at the Warriors, we envision a dynamic leader to drive the success of our DEI initiatives, including organization-wide accountability and facilitation of our ERG network. We are thrilled that Jennifer is joining the team and look forward to more meaningful inclusionary practices that will continue to enhance the experiences we create for all of Dub Nation.”

Most recently, Vasquez led Amgen’s Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging efforts, integrating a DEI lens to the employee experience and organizational design. She was instrumental in launching the first unconscious bias training and learning journey focused on key behaviors in creating an inclusive culture. She served as the global lead for developing strategy for ERG engagement and established a strong ecosystem with over 11 ERGs globally, representing 40% of employees in over 100 countries. Through the ERG global network, she was able to lay a foundation for cross-pollination and collaboration, launching a cross-ERG Inclusiveness Series focused on intersectionality in social justice.

With over 15 years of experience in both the private and public sectors, her successful initiatives have focused on bringing fundamental and transformative changes to organizations to embed equity and inclusionary practices in corporate and political structures. She led the development of a think-tank framework to deepen engagement with government, industry and academia to diversify the STEM workforce. She has driven a variety of human capital management initiatives, including performance management process; wrap-around support and benefits; employee relations; recruiting efforts and talent development. Her experience, ranging from grassroots level to large global matrix organizations, brings a unique educational and data-driven lens to building communities of practice for equitable solutions to this space.

Golden State Warriors logoVasquez earned a dual Bachelors of Arts in International Relations and Government from George Mason University. She holds her Masters of Science in Intercultural Studies with a concentration in Education & Development and Masters of Business Administration from Florida International University. Vasquez also holds a Diversity and Inclusion Certification from Cornell University.

Vasquez was recently recognized as a Diversity Global Top 15 Diversity Champion, a DEI Advocate of the Year for California in 2021 from National Diversity Council and was featured as a DiversityComm 2021 Wonder Woman. She has published articles for Guerrero Media, DiversityComm, and Hispanic Network Magazine and has been a speaker at over 20 conferences nationally and globally.

For more information on the Golden State Warriors’ 2021-22 season, presented by Kaiser Permanente, please visit warriors.com

Milwaukee’s first Latina police officer paved way for future generations
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Linda Velasco is the first Latina Milwaukee police officer, and she paved the way for other Latinas on the force.

By

Being the first in anything comes with its perks and challenges.

For one Milwaukee police officer, it came with responsibility, hardship and cherish-able memories.

Linda Velasco is the first Latina Milwaukee police officer, and she paved the way for other Latinas on the force.

“I was shocked because it just didn’t seem real, you know?” she said. “Like, I may really be a police officer.”

Eventually, Velasco did become a police officer.

She moved to Milwaukee with her sons in the 1970s from East Chicago, Indiana.

Velasco was working at First Wisconsin Bank when she got word that the police department was hiring women.

“I really was not aware that there were female police officers except for on television. I grew up there were no female police officers,” she said.

Still, Velasco took her chances and applied at the Fire and Police Commission.

When asked if she expected a callback, Velasco said she didn’t quit her job waiting for it to happen.

“I would hope that I would hear something,” she said.

The application process, from the written, physical and oral exam, took time.

“I was shocked that I got through it,” Velasco said after getting the call she got in.

Her graduating class had a handful of other women, but no other Latinas.

Velasco was sworn in on Dec. 6, 1976.

But, she didn’t even know she held the title of first Latina MPD officer until later on in her career.

“I had no idea. Nobody said, ‘Welcome, you’re the first Latina,” Velasco said.

At the time, she was a member of the Latino Peace Officers Association, LPOA, a group that serves as a resource for Latino officers.

They are the ones who recognized her as the first.

“They made me realize the importance of my position and what I did,” Velasco said. “It did make me feel really good that they recognized me.”

Velasco started out in District Three.

She remembers there was another female with her in that district and even though they did what any male officer did they were still looked at, differently.

“I think they were surprised. I probably would be surprised too to see a female, and we had to have short hair. So, you know, we all really kind of looked like little boys,” Velasco said. “We also wore a man’s uniforms. They hadn’t styled or come out with uniforms for women, you know, to fit us differently.”

She said she went before the Fire and Police Commission to get the ball rolling on hairstyle requirement changes. The rule was eventually changed.

Throughout her career, her family was supportive.

As Velasco recounted cherish-able moments of people grateful for her service, she said there were also challenges she had to overcome.

“Men had to get used to, you know, women being their partners now. Some accepted it better than others,” Velasco said. “There were some race issues that I remember that were unpleasant but not surprised by, but I was able to work through them.”

Even recruiting other women was a bit tough during that time.

“When I followed up with a particular woman, I called her just to see you know, if she went through with the process. She said that she didn’t because her husband didn’t want her to,” she said.

Velasco retired in 2002, as an administrative lieutenant in the mayor’s office, and has since paved the way for other Latino and Latina police officers.

“I’m glad that she had the courage to do that and push forward,” said Danilo Cardenas, president of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization, NLLEO. “I’m glad she stuck with it because it opened the doors for a lot of Latinas and a lot of females to come into our profession.”

According to MPD, as of Dec. 28, 2021, there are 188 Latino officers and 50 Latina officers totaling 238 out of 1,648 sworn-in officers.

When asked if these numbers are sufficient Cardenas said, “No.”

“If you look at minorities in general, the police department doesn’t reflect the community we serve. I think we need to do a better job of recruiting Latinos,” he said.

Click here to read the full article on WISN.

6 Ways New Grads Can Standout and Land that First Real Job
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Latinos celebrating graduation throwing hats in the air with a blue sky background and sun shing through

Leaving an institute of higher education and moving on into the workforce isn’t always easy, especially on the cusps of the end of a worldwide pandemic.

But it’s never impossible to make yourself stand out and to find the right opportunity for your desired career path. Here are six ways that job expert Michael Altshuler suggests for new graduates looking to get into the field:

    • Create your own experience – If you have no work experience, trying alternative routes to creating some. A great place to start is volunteering. This looks great on a resume, and it is also a great place to start networking. Include any skills that you learned in school or elsewhere. Create independent projects. Whether it is a school project, such as a report that somehow relates to the industry, or something you make yourself such as a video or power-point presentation, having tangible evidence of skills can help. Take your time on it and make it look professional before you show it to a potential employer.
    • Focus on your people skills – New grads with little real-world experience can make a huge impression with their great people skills. Not only does this show how you will interact with customers, it also says a lot about your personality, how you handle stress and how you might react when the going gets tough. A few great people skills to work on are kindness, humor, caring, humbleness, honesty and being inquisitive.
    • Mirror the job description (in your resume and application) – For many jobs, the recruitment process begins with an algorithm that selects applications based on keywords. Try to include as many of the keywords from the job description in your resume as you possibly can without outright copying and pasting (remember, a human will probably look at this at some point, so don’t be too clever about this). For instance, if a job posting says something about independent workers who can manage their time well, include something about that in your application and resume as personal strengths.
    • Research, research, research – Don’t think that just because you have graduated you don’t need to study anymore. One of the best ways for inexperienced applicants to standout is to do research on the company to which they are applying. Demonstrating that you already have a familiarity with both the operations and the values of the company when you walk into an interview shows that you have the interest, initiative and innovative spirit that will make you a valuable addition to the team.
job expert Michael Altshuler headshot
Job expert Michael Altshuler
  • Be Networking (all the time) – Let’s face it, job seeking, like life, isn’t always fair. Even with the best written cover letter, a resume without a lot of experience on it may find its way to the bottom of the pile of candidates quickly. Submitting resumes is not always enough; sometimes you need a personal connection to get your foot in the door. Begin by slipping your job-seeking quest into every conversation. Promote yourself without bragging. You might be surprised how fast someone will turn up who is either looking to fill a position themselves or knows someone else who is.
  • Be honest but optimistic – As a new grad, the interviewer doesn’t expect you to know everything. Sometimes an honest “I don’t know” is better than trying to fake your way through and make things up. A lot of employers will ask unexpected questions to gauge how a person reacts to unfamiliar situations. Whatever is asked, stay calm. Answer as best you can and remember that this is to see how you react. Remain optimistic and answer in the way that shows that you can keep cool under pressure.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Altshuler

Discussing Your Strengths in a Job Interview
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interviewees on Zoom call discussing their resumes

When you’re interviewing for a job, there’s a strong chance that a recruiter or potential boss will ask what you believe are your strengths. This is an easy question to answer. Interviewers will certainly want to know that your perceived strengths line up with the position you’re seeking, but they are also interested in whether you’re self-aware and confident. With a little practice, you can answer that question without appearing either arrogant or overly humble. Here’s how.

Show Your Strengths: STAR Method in Action

Talking about your strengths is an opportunity to show why you’d be a great fit for the job and how your skills align with the company or team. The key is to think about what strengths you have that match one or more of the aspects of the job description. A strength can be either a technical skill or a soft skill, such as teamwork or communication.

Once you’ve decided which of your strengths you want to feature, it’s time to identify real life examples where you’ve demonstrated that strength. The best way to approach behavioral questions is to use the STAR method. This helps you break down a scenario and explain how you successfully navigated it.

Situation: Offer some background on the task or challenge that you’ll be addressing.

Task: Define what your role and responsibilities were for the particular situation.

Action: Explain what steps you took or ideas you offered to help solve the problem or tackle that challenge.

Result: Share how the situation was resolved, highlighting how your actions helped reach that conclusion.

Here’s an example:

If you interview for a position that requires you to lead or even be part of a team, you might choose to say one of your strengths is leadership.

Situation: I volunteer as a gardener at a local park and enjoy working with new volunteers.

Task: The park identified a need to educate new volunteers about native plants.

Action: I organized a training session to teach my team members about native plants.

Result: The new volunteers found it so useful that the training is now part of the new volunteer onboarding process.

In this scenario, an interviewer might recognize your ability to take initiative to address needs and lead a new volunteer training. While this answer may seem simple, it demonstrates your strength in both initiative and leadership, which are valuable traits to all employers.

If you find it is hard to identify your strengths, consider your ability to:

  • Collaborate
  • Solve problems
  • Take direction and focus on tasks
  • Use technology
  • Lead or mentor

Rehearsing your answers can also help you feel prepared when heading into your next interview. Common interview questions to consider include:

  • “Why do you want this job?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to learn something quickly but knew nothing about it before.”
  • “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
  • “Tell me about a goal you set and how you achieved it.”
  • “What is one of your weaknesses?”

Reflect on your skills and accomplishments. Think about why they qualify you to succeed in the job you’re applying for. Think about the strengths of your professional role models and whether you have some of those same qualities. Consider a time when a teammate shared something they admired about you. Or think back to any times you received recognition for your work and what skills allowed you to shine.

Source: Ticket to Work

Formulating the Perfect STEM Resume for 2022
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Human using a computer laptop for searching for job and fill out personal data on job website to file a resume and apply application to jobs on the internet. work search online

A fresh start is one of the gifts of a brand-new year, especially coming out of unprecedented times. If you’re looking to change up your career, here are some tips to help you revise your current resume and make the kind of impact you really hope for.

Polish visual elements

A resume that’s too visually distracting or disorganized can make an employer dispose of it without actually delving in. Use plenty of white space, and sharp, consistent formatting for each job. Use a limited number of fonts, preferably just one or two. Avoid using too many attention-getting methods such as all caps, bold and increased font sizes, or the reader struggles to know where to look. Make it neat and scannable by using clear headings.

Focus on Technical Skills

This is one of your strongest opportunities to introduce yourself; every organization, and even different jobs within one organization, may require you to make subtle tweaks to your resume to make it count. For STEM-related fields, it’s always best to showcase your skills for a specific position and the specific certifications that meet their needed criteria. Avoid listing expected skills required in any job and focus on special abilities that make you the best candidate for the job. It may also be helpful to list your expertise level (expert, proficient, etc.) to drive home your skillset.

Show Your Experience Across Disciplines

Though you want to be specific to the job, you will also want to showcase how your disciplines have crossed paths, especially in a time where scientific innovations and technological advances are increasing in overlap. Tell your reader about the experience you’ve had in your lines of work and school from outward appearance and design to the more behind-the-scenes work of sample collecting and data recording.

Add Results to Build Context

Do your jobs appear lacking in results? Maybe you didn’t track your statistics to — down the road — accurately report them on your resume. But numbers and impact are helpful to get a picture of what you’ve done. For example, a Conservation Corps worker described his experience as, “Coordinated group of 25 volunteers. As leader of 25-person team, removed invasive species growth over 50-acre wilderness, restored and maintained over 10 miles of trails. Developed new team protocols that led to improved communication and more efficient trail practices.” These numbers add more weight.

Revise Repeatedly, Even When You Can’t Stand It

The last thing you want is for your resume to be rejected over simple errors that could have easily been fixed. Go over your resume, use spellcheck, have a friend or trusted individual read through it, and ask for feedback from qualified individuals willing to help.

With these tips in mind, your resume will not only be ready to take on job opportunities, but your confidence will only increase. 2022 is a fresh start from the past two years; go make it count!

Source: CareerOneStop, KForce

D.C.’s struggle to hire more diverse teachers — and keep them
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diverse teachers wanted in latino schools

By Vanessa G. Sánchez, The Washington Post

Days before the coronavirus pandemic forced D.C. schools to close last year, fourth-grade teacher Isabella Sanchez sat down in front of the District’s State Board of Education to explain why teacher diversity matters. At H.D. Cooke Elementary in Northwest Washington, Sanchez told the board, she was one of only four Latino teachers serving a student body that is 52 percent Latino.

“This gap should matter to us as it matters to the students who walk into the school every single day,” she said. “I was just one of the few people who [students and parents] felt comfortable talking to, but I’m constantly wondering how many stories our Latinx students and their families would be empowered to tell if there were more Latinx teachers to tell them to.”

As school districts across the nation have become increasingly diverse, the diversity of their teachers and administrators has lagged. And while teachers in D.C. are more racially diverse than the national average, the city’s public and public charter schools have struggled to resolve a deficit of Latino teachers and male teachers of color — and to retain some educators once they’re hired.

A 2019 report from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education found that roughly 45 percent of D.C. students were males of color, compared with 16 percent of teachers. Nineteen percent of the city’s students, meanwhile, were Latino or Hispanic, compared with 7 percent of teachers. The latter gap was even wider in Wards 1 and 4, where “15 percent and 10 percent of teachers are Hispanic/Latino, respectively, but 58 percent and 40 percent of students are Hispanic/Latino,” the report said.

“What message does that send to [students]? That Latinx people don’t or can’t become teachers,” Sanchez, who has since moved to Garrison Elementary, said of those disparities in an interview. “There’s so much messaging that happens on kind of a subconscious level.”

With the pandemic affecting student learning, and with a heightened national awareness around racial justice issues, experts say recruiting and retaining teachers and principals of color is essential in making schools more equitable.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee acknowledged that the system has “work to do” in areas such as recruiting more Latino and Hispanic educators.

“Being able to talk to someone that shares your experience is incredibly meaningful and affirming, but also gives you that sense of promise that you can make it to that place in your own life,” said Scott Goldstein, founder of EmpowerEd, a teacher-led organization working to create D.C. education policies that represent diverse voices.

Research shows that teachers play an important role in shaping students’ beliefs about their academic prospects. Higher student expectations, the 2019 OSSE report found, can lead to lower likelihoods of suspension and dropout for Black and Latino students.

“We know the world that we live in. We know as teachers that there’s a sense of urgency to make sure that every kid will succeed, and you never want to see a kid fail because of your low expectations for them,” said Sanchez, a fifth-grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Garrison.

Aggie Payton, a special-education teacher at Whittier Elementary in Northwest D.C., saw the importance of having such supportive teachers when he endured economic hardship and homelessness as a Black teenager in Bradenton, Fla. His school mentors, he said, taught him life skills and motivated him to stay in school, apply to college and eventually become a teacher.

Payton said he now sees his life experiences as an advantage in connecting with students going through similar struggles at Whittier, a Title I school where 96 percent of students are students of color.

“I’m a Black male, and I’m not just relatable, but I also have high expectations for students,” he said. “… That drives me incessantly.”

The city has made some notable improvements in hiring. Through TeachDC, a data-driven hiring system implemented in 2009, DCPS is receiving more applications and filling most vacancies before the first day of school, a Georgetown University study published in September found.

“Our effort to retain and attract teachers are certainly research-based practices and something that we think about a lot, including compensation, leadership opportunities, collaboration,” Ferebee said.

The Georgetown report also noted that DCPS was retaining more than 90 percent of teachers who rated as effective or highly effective, which Ferebee said is “what we want.” But the city’s evaluation system, known as IMPACT, has been found to be racially biased, with White teachers on average receiving higher scores.

Although the share of Black educators in DCPS has risen over the past 10 years — to 56 percent — that figure remains 20 points lower than it was two decades ago, according to data from the OSSE and the nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute.

According to a recent district report, 25 percent of D.C. teachers on average leave each year, six percentage points above the average in other U.S. urban cities. This school year’s retention numbers, measured in October, showed a lower departure rate of 14 percent, DCPS said.

Click here to read the full article on the Washington Post.

Education leaders serving Latino students rethink college equity post-pandemic
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education institute sign at the entrance to California State University, Northridge on Jan. 23

By 

As higher education leaders mark 25 years since the creation of Hispanic-serving institutions, they’re assessing how these colleges and universities can enroll and graduate more Latino students amid the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last fall, colleges saw a 5 percent drop in Latino undergraduate enrollments. The dramatic decrease came one year after Latino college enrollment had increased by nearly 2 percent, according to Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit that analyzes how higher education institutions are enrolling, retaining and graduating Latino students.

“There was a lot of progress and accelerating enrollment. We were seeing increases in completion as well,” Santiago said during a virtual briefing on Hispanic-serving institutions held on Wednesday. “In one year, we saw a precipitous drop, scaling back some of the enrollment progress.”

While HSIs make up only about 18 percent of all colleges and universities, they enroll and graduate over 60 percent of the nation’s Latino college students. HSIs are defined as institutions where at least a quarter of the student body is Hispanic.

In the briefing, education officials and Latino members of Congress reflected on the growth of these institutions while discussing how they can step up to recent challenges.

“Equity is a big focus for us moving forward,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during the briefing. “Institutions like HSIs play a major role in that. So when we’re talking about recovery as a country, we need to acknowledge HSIs and the important work that they do to promote equity and access for all students.”

In their 25 years of existence, HSIs have grown exponentially, from about 189 colleges and universities to 539 as of last year. This is due to an increase in Latino college students who are mainly concentrated in several predominantly Hispanic areas, cities and states.

In the last 25 years, over 835 unique federal grants, totaling $1.9 billion, have provided educational opportunities for over 1.1 million Latino students enrolled in HSIs.

Santiago said while federal funding is not parallel to the growth HSIs have seen over the last decades, there’s an opportunity to assess what kinds of investments should be done to meet the growing demand and ensure successful results.

Roadblocks, then Covid

While college enrollment among Latino students has been increasing over the past decade and reached a record high in 2017, Hispanics still lag behind in college completion, according to Excelencia’s research. At least 22 percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39 percent of the general population. High costs, a limited knowledge of college and trying to balance work, family and academics are the most common barriers preventing Hispanic students from finishing college on time.

But the panorama gets more complicated as the Covid-19 pandemic heaps great economic stress on Latino families.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega Is Using Art to Uplift Brown and Black Women
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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

In 2017, Afro-Latinx visual artist Reyna Noriega began her career as a full-time creator. Little did she know that in just a few short years, she would have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, would be working with huge brands like Apple and Old Navy, and would design a cover for The New Yorker. Born and raised in Miami to a first-generation Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega, who is best-known for her bold, vibrant, graphic work, was destined to be an artist.

“My father is also an artist, and I became interested early on in just the magic of it all, being able to bring ideas to life on paper and communicate in a universal language,” Noriega told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. “I was always the ‘sensitive kid’ feeling a lot and thinking a lot, so art and writing were great outlets for me to get all of that under control and to be able to process my emotions.”

Now, Noriega’s art is being seen on a much wider scale and impacting thousands of people who follow her on social media or see her art on city walls and T-shirts. To get there, she had to put in a lot of work, including studying and learning on her own, despite the fact that she took art classes throughout high school and minored in art in college. Using the help of books and YouTube, Noriega honed her skills and eventually left her job as a teacher, with the full support of her parents.

“I was very fortunate that my family believed in me and my ability to make my passion a career and even help me make it happen! To this day, my mom is the person that helps me run my online shop, and they encourage me to strive higher,” Noriega told us.

By 2019, Noriega started doing brand work, after getting comfortable with her style and what she wanted to represent as an artist. It gradually became easier for her to align herself with brands that had the same mission. She is currently working on Amex’s “Always Welcome” design collective launch, which will provide businesses with signage for their storefronts and indicate their stance on inclusivity.

“Honestly, every time I get an email, I am honored and humbled that my name enters rooms I never thought would. From companies whose products I used to save up for at one point, like Apple, to legendary publications like The New Yorker, or having thousands and thousands of people wear a shirt I designed with Old Navy. It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Ultimately, it was Noriega embracing her culture and her commitment to advocating for Black and brown people through her art that got her there. She says her Afro-Caribbean culture is what brings “vibrancy and flavor” to her art. But we think it’s so much more than that. With just a single glance, it’s obvious that Noriega’s background informs her work. Her use of color, the way she showcases the female form, the various complexions and skin tones she celebrates in her work, and the stunning, tropics-inspired botanical scenes she often creates speak to exactly who she is and where she comes from.

“Art has always been a place I look to boost my mood, museums, galleries, [and] learning about art history. But unfortunately in those spaces, rarely did I ever feel I belong, because my story wasn’t told on those walls, and in the rare occasion it was, it only highlighted the struggles and traumas,” she said. “I wanted to create work that would lift moods and raise the self-efficacy of Black and brown women with positive representation and vibrant depictions of joy.”

Noriega describes the art she creates with a tremendous amount of care and respect. Her mission is to create art that represents and uplifts communities that are often left out of the conversation. “I focus on women because as a woman, I know all of the challenges and barriers we face,” she said. “Inequalities in pay, harmful messaging on body image, the ongoing fight for body autonomy . . . it can be really exhausting. Add on to that the challenges being a BIPOC, and it just magnifies. My art is meant to celebrate women, inspire joy, and a reclamation of peace and rest.”

Noriega recognizes how important it is to not only amplify voices like hers but also to use her gifts and resources to speak up for people who don’t have the same advantages that she does. Even as a Black Latina, she’s cognizant of the privileges she has and the responsibility associated with them. “For me personally, I often look at my identities as a privilege, which pushes me to amplify Black voices even more. I am all too aware of the advantages I have received being a Latina in Miami, and even being ethnically Caribbean, although my race is Black,” she said. “Being able to say where your lineage comes from is a privilege many Black Americans don’t have. I have been unfairly judged and treated and had some very hurtful comments said to me, but I must also be aware of how my skin tone provides privileges, how my heritage provides privileges, and how knowing more than one language is a privilege.” And in recognizing that, she’s able to leverage her position to empower others in really visible ways.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

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