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We hear much about deficits in the Latino community. Recently, however, I have been honored to speak at Latino scholarship awards and fellowship graduation ceremonies. And contrary to the deficit news, I am very optimistic about our Hispanic youth.
Although the scholars and fellows are the exception, let's not forget that they competed with many others of merit who by dint of intelligence, hard work, perseverance and ambition might have been among them. The ones I have met impress.
A few are from comfortable backgrounds. Most, as did I, come from working class families, many of them immigrants. Regardless of background, they bond readily with their fellow awardees of highly diverse backgrounds, seemingly recognizing that their individual fate is linked to that of the Latino community.
A risky generalization, perhaps, but these young Latinos are:
Aware that academic assessments are opportunities;
Bright, world-wise and self-aware;
Overwhelmingly bilingual and bicultural;
Proud of their Latino heritage and Spanish language competence;
Studious, hardworking and committed to serve others;
Ambitious, with clearly defined individual goals. Taking charge of their future and primed for leadership.
What does this mean for our country? In New Jersey, where I live, Hispanics will be one-third of the population in a generation. Nationally, one in four Americans will be of Latino descent by about 2025. So, a "demographic imperative" increasingly will thrust Latinos into leadership positions. It is inevitable.
All is not rosy, however. For every bright, ambitious and well educated Latino, many others lag. They lag not for lack of hard work, desire, sacrifice or ambition, but because life has dealt them a hand that hinders advancement. We must give them a better hand. They will discover how to make the most of it.
The good news? Emerging leaders have an enviable trait - they remember where they came from. What do I mean? They have helped and will continue to help the less fortunate among them. This attribute will endure throughout their careers.
In my remarks to the students and scholars, I emphasize not only the importance of giving back but also of taking charge of their own future.
I know from my interactions that these points resonate with them. And I hope that leaders of our Latino organizations and others in our society share my view of the promise of our youth. Such organizations do a fine job - every day - to create opportunities and develop leaders.
Some I know are the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Hispanics Inspiring Students' Performance and Achievement (HISPA), the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), Parents Step Ahead in Dallas, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, 100 Hispanic Women, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. These are just of few among many.
As we consider the challenges ahead, let us remember the successes and the talents of those who are destined to succeed. Let us remember that the path forward will be more easily transited because of them. Our Latino youth hold great promise for tomorrow.
Yvette Donado is the Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Vice President, People, Process and Communications, of Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ.
Published: Sept. 5, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 21