With a wide variety of approaches and a lot of dedication and strategic work, Latino-led nonprofits are helping at-risk boys and young men of color in rural areas of the Southwest to find the pride and motivation necessary to get their lives on track.
Six of those nonprofits met Sept. 10 and 11, 2015, to share challenges and best practices in the second Grantee Convening of the Hispanics in Philanthropy Southwest Latino Men and Boys Initiative, which took place at Lodge on the Desert, in Tucson, Arizona.
“Over the summer, thanks to HIP, we had a Summer Symposium … and had them watch ‘McFarland, U.S.A.,’ ” said Aguila Youth Leadership Institute founder and CEO Rosemary Ybarra-Hernandez, recalling the event, which included a live appearance by some from the bootstraps cross-country team whose story is recounted in this year’s Disney movie. “We had the Diaz brothers come. They are part of the Aguila family now.”
The other HIP grantees include: Santa Fe Youthworks, which is based in Santa Fe and serves northern New Mexico; the statewide Southwest Organizing Project and La Plazita Institute, both based in Albuquerque; La Red Del Río Abajo, in Albuquerque’s marginalized South Valley, and Tucson-based Amistades, which offers cultural proficiency training for social service providers, and other services in Southern Arizona.
Four of these grantees, Aguila Youth Leadership Institute, Amistades, Santa Fe Youthworks, and Southwest Organizing Project, have been recently designated as Bright Spots in Hispanic Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The honor qualifies them to be part of the inaugural group included in the National Bright Spots in Hispanic Education online catalogue.
At the start of the convening, HIP Programs Manager Anne Hand congratulated the group’s Bright Spots. She also expressed appreciation for the HIP partnership with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that funded the Southwest Latino Men and Boys program. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Mexican Consul Ricardo Pineda welcomed the group at the Sept. 10th convening dinner. The convening’s second day featured two sessions on policy and advocacy led and facilitated by the Center for Law and Social Policy.
HIP’s grantees support young Latino and Native American men and boys from largely rural or semi-urban settings, and engage them in trainings around financial literacy, the importance of pursuing an education, valuing their families, and respecting women. Some provide services, such as counseling and mentorship, and others take different tacks. There is Amistades, with its focus on training, and Southwest Organizing Project, which promotes economic justice, youth organizing and voter engagement, including support for lowering the voting age in Albuquerque School District elections.
La Plazita Institute and La Red Del Río Abajo have programs that allow the rural participants to learn from the land while acquiring leadership skills.
La Plazita Institute operates an organic farming program spread over four plots of privately owned land, as well as workshops that produce ceramics and silk-screen T-shirts. It harvested 10,000 pounds of produce last year. It also raised more than $6,000 through the HIPGive crowdfunding platform to upgrade its kitchen and storage facilities.
Theresa Gonzalez, La Plazita’s co-executive director, and Joseluis Ortiz, who coordinates its nontraditional youth institute, spoke at the convening of the youngsters from broken or abusive homes and the young men from the justice system who commit to La Plazita’s 20-hour weekly program for a small stipend. “Some came on ankle bracelets and left off of them, or left for better jobs,” Ortiz said. The participants, he added, receive counseling, get to work in the fields, learn about managing money, food justice and healthy nutritional choices, as well as marketing strategies and how to sell the fruit of their labor.
La Red, which is a network of eight nonprofits, has offered a variety of programs to address social stigmas associated with living in Albuquerque’s South Valley, and also to reduce friction between recent immigrant youths and those whose families have lived for generations in the U.S., according to William Poehner and Ona Porter, who represented La Red at the convening. They have also used La Cosecha project to teach nutrition and reconnect young people to the land.
A summertime La Red program, which HIP funded, offered financial literacy, gender bias and nonviolence trainings, help for getting a driver’s license and how to use money to start a business, get a home, and pursue an education, Poehner said.
The program, they said, aimed to increase the young men’s awareness of their own potential and the roles they can play to improve society.
“Giving them the support to act in their own interest is a tremendous help for them,” Porter said. “With HIP’s support, they could develop a mindset that there can be change.”