Coming Together to Advance the Community

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Hispanic leaders in Colorado, like so many in the United States, are committed to addressing challenges and improving opportunities for their community. They want to work with the Federal government to understand policies, access information, leverage resources, and build collaboration that will help provide solutions to pressing concerns. In Denver, I saw this commitment first hand.

I was fortunate enough to join the team from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics for the fifth in a series of community action summits taking place throughout the nation, wherein Administration officials meet with Hispanic community leaders to share policy and program accomplishments, gather feedback, and participate in conversations initiated by the leaders.

More than 150 Colorado Latino leaders gathered for the summit and joined Administration officials from the White House, the Departments of Education, Treasury, Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the day was highly productive. After a morning that included round-robin style presentations by the Administration officials on jobs and the economy, health and healthcare, education, and immigration, the agenda was turned over to attendees, utilizing the open space process.

Administration officials greet participants at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit in Denver, CO on October 29, 2011. (Photo by Germán González-Flores)

Participants were invited to present their own ideas for discussion to the group, and everyone was encouraged to “vote with their feet” and attend only the topics that interested them. Not surprisingly, subjects that received the most participation touched on core community issues for Latinos: immigration, education, youth development, and healthcare, particularly for seniors.

Summit participants engaged in lengthy conversations. While people were encouraged to break for lunch on their own and then resume the dialogues, they opted instead to gather over the meal and continue speaking, to not lose any precious time.

Finally, each breakout group submitted a discussion report online, and the entire audience gathered for closing remarks, or “news of the day.” Feedback at the end of the summit was overwhelmingly positive. Participants expressed a desire to continue the conversation and collaboration, and invited us to return for more work together.

Something that made an impression on me was the dedication to this work shown by the attendees. Many of the participants were from nonprofit organizations, and a number of them hold additional positions in a volunteer capacity. Through their attendance and comments, it was clear to me that members of this community give their time and talent on a volunteer basis – in short, they serve – extensively, for the benefit of the entire population.

This level of engagement, this spirit of service is what the President has called upon all Americans to embrace through his United We Serve call to service. The President has said that the challenges America faces are unprecedented, and that we need to build a new foundation for economic growth in America.

The policies and investments called for in the President's American Jobs Act would help advance economic growth, especially for Americans most in need. The activities and efforts of community leaders like those we met in Denver also mobilize resources and create opportunities for those who could benefit most at this time – low-income families, at-risk youth, and returning veterans and their families.

In my conversations, I highlighted how utilizing the resources and support of national service and volunteering could bolster the work of the attendees. Many communities are already leveraging national service to improve their schools, build or rehabilitate affordable housing, provide healthy meals for children and services for seniors, and support veterans, wounded warriors, and military families.

As the summits continue in other cities, we will continue our conversations with leaders about how to strengthen the Hispanic community. Together, we will improve lives and solve community challenges, making a stronger America.

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