I'm glad I got to attend Los Cien's "4th Annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County" at Sonoma State University. I learned of many organizations in our area and put a human face to those groups. I feel proud being an active member of such a vibrant community and the experience in itself was educational, as well as, inspirational. This years' Los Cien focused on demographic change, economic shifts and the concept of equity. Civic engagement became real for me because I experienced how the University created dialogue and cooperation between students, faculty and society.
Dr. Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, discussed demographic changes at the local and national level. Dr. Pastor explained the current challenges the country is facing were already experienced in California during the late 80's and early 90's. The average age for Latinos in Sonoma County is 27 while for Whites it is 49 so the gap is racial and generational. Mr. Pastor detailed that "Regions that work toward equity have stronger and more resilient economic growth" and that equity and inclusion "should be baked in not sprinkled on."
SSU president Judy Sakaki explained that since the University got designated as a Hispanic- serving institution, the first grant has been secured, and announced the PUERTA program (Preparing Under-Represented Educators to Realize their Teaching Ambitions). PUERTA , which means door in Spanish, will offer 2.7 million dollars over five years to help educate more Hispanic teachers. Provost Lisa Vollendorf, who gave part of her speech in fluent Spanish, called for "Inclusión y Diversidad" (Inclusion and Diversity) and wants to help "build bridges with the community and to reach wide, reach far."
Herman Hernandez, Chair for Los Cien, encouraged community members and organizations to "put equity at the center of collective work," and to assure "full equal access to opportunity, power and resources so all people can achieve their full potential." In addition to encouraging "new voices and perspectives at the table." I hope more students are able to participate in similar events at Sonoma State in the future because I become exposed to concepts and ideas not familiar to me.