NCLR Recognizes Affiliates for Local Initiatives That Empower Latino Families

PHOENIX—At the National Affiliate Luncheon held today at the 2017 NCLR Annual Conference in Phoenix, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) recognized four community-based organizations that belong to the NCLR Affiliate Network for their outstanding efforts to empower Latino families and broaden opportunities available to them. This year’s awardees are Academia Avance in Los Angeles; Comunidades Unidas in West Valley City, Utah; Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama in Birmingham; and Latino Network in Portland, Oregon.

“We applaud these exemplary organizations and their innovative approach to helping Hispanic communities prepare students for college and careers, and connecting families to resources and services that help them become self-sufficient. We are honoring Academia Avance, Comunidades Unidas, HICA, and Latino Network at the 2017 NCLR Annual Conference for their tireless work in transforming the lives of Latino families. Their dedication and success strengthen our entire community,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

Presented annually, the NCLR Family Strengthening Awards honor NCLR-affiliated community-based organizations for their commitment to bolstering the success and strength of the Hispanic community through a combination of programs and services. Each recipient receives a $5,000 cash award to further their work in the community and their partnership with NCLR.

Latino Network, founded in 1996 by Latino community leaders who grew concerned about the lack of adequate resources to meet the needs of the growing Latino community in Portland, Oregon, has evolved to become a multiservice agency dedicated to positively transforming the lives of Latino youth, families, and children. Through their Family Stability Programs, Latino Network works with families to increase stability and ensure access to safe housing, health care, employment, and other resources. Along with parent engagement programs, youth and adult leadership development, and family support services, Latino Network is dedicated to serving their community, meeting them where they are at, and ensuring services are culturally specific.

“Latino Network is honored to receive NCLR’s Family Strengthening Award for our work in keeping families together,” said Latino Network Executive Director Carmen Rubio. “We share this award with the many wonderful families who participate in all of our programs. At Latino Network, our goal is to ensure that everyone in our community, especially our youth and their families, have the best chance for success. The targeting of Latinos for detention and deportation undermines the nexus of our community—the family. The threat of separation in and of itself impacts family stability, while actual detention and/or deportation undermines the future of Latino youth and therefore of our whole community. While we share the collective heartbreak due to increased anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment and its very real impacts on our community, we have been honored by our family’s trust in us as we have provided some tools that can help them best prepare for a time of crisis. On behalf of the families we serve, Latino Network sincerely thanks NCLR for their support in this effort to promote the strength, resilience, and growth of our communities.”

Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) is the only Latino community-based nonprofit in Alabama providing culturally specific, bilingual services for Hispanics. Leveraging partnerships and experience, ¡HICA! has established itself as a trusted community institution, fully comprehending that Hispanic immigrants face many complex, multi-layered challenges to overcoming language and cultural barriers. Alabama is a new migrant destination state and lacks the infrastructure to uplift this minority group. ¡HICA! empowers over 3,000 Hispanic families every year through four programs—each focused on increasing participants’ integration, stability, assets, autonomy, and opportunity. The Strong Families Program, ¡HICA!’s gateway program, provides support to families in times of crisis by providing people with the tools they need to advocate for themselves.

“We empower Latino families in Alabama to achieve their dreams and aspirations as they integrate into the community,” said ¡HICA! Executive Director Isabel Rubio. “The Strong Families Program is the gateway through which our families access ¡HICA!’s interconnected programs that empower them to engage in all aspects of their new community, from becoming business owners, U.S. citizens, college graduates, and more. The longstanding relationship with NCLR has been a central and consistent asset to strengthening Hispanic families in Alabama.”

Academia Avance is an independent community-based charter public school serving 400 students in grades 6–12. The school was designed to address the critical need for innovative educational alternatives and inspire a lifetime of learning and leading. The Avance Life Prep Program allows students to begin their exploration of college and professional career paths via project-based learning and a collection of senior-year experiences that include student-designed fieldwork and internships. As a partner in NCLR’s Escalera and High School Democracy Project, Academia Avance has strengthened and expanded its Avance Life Prep Program, thus eliminating barriers to employment and economic mobility for Latino youth. Additionally, their leadership as advocates for their student, Fatima Avelica, whose father was detained by ICE agents earlier this year, has placed Academia Avance at the center of efforts to counter the new administration’s onslaught against immigrants.

“At this critical moment, we must partner with our Latino youth and their parents to find a new path forward past an old set of challenges,” said Academia Avance Executive Director Ricardo Mireles. “We will get farther faster with our grandparents’ meaning of bien educado: Esa joven es bien educada por que es acomedida, sabe trabajar, y va con buen paso adelante. Our challenge as Latino leaders is not the development of a new understanding, but rather a translation into action of what our community already knows. Avance has almost a decade of outcomes from our Life Prep Program to demonstrate what our community can do. Academia Avance is honored to receive the 2017 NCLR Family Strengthening Award. We look forward to a continued Affiliate partnership, and are ready to stand strong with NCLR to #EndTheAssaultOnFamilies.”

For nearly two decades, Comunidades Unidas (CU) has empowered Latinos to recognize and achieve their own potential, and be a positive force for change in the larger community. CU increases access to civic engagement activities, health care, and immigration services empowering the underserved Latino community in Salt Lake County and all of Utah. CU’s Community Well-Being Initiative includes six separate programs including NCLR’s Comprando Rico y Sano program, where CU leverages promotoras to educate families about health issues and nutritious eating. This initiative also includes a Family Unity program to help families stay together through the access of immigration services at their West Side Immigration Clinic, offering BIA-accredited staff. To better serve families, CU relocated to downtown Salt Lake City where it is close to Latino-owned businesses, Title I schools with predominantly Latino students, and accessible public transportation. As the only Latino advocacy organization in the state of Utah, CU responds to community needs in a culturally sensitive way and strengthens families for a brighter future.

“At Comunidades Unidas, we recognize that we cannot tackle problems or run programs in isolation,” said Comunidades Unidas Executive Director Luis Garza. “CU has taken a comprehensive approach to address the most pressing health and civil rights issues affecting Latinos in Utah. When families suffer from discrimination, are in fear of being separated and torn apart from each other, and their access to health care is in danger, our community cannot thrive. We must build bridges and partnerships to address and bring light to all of these issues to ensure that our Latino and immigrant families are healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged members of the community. Comunidades Unidas is honored and humbled to be receiving this prestigious award in recognition of the work happening here in Utah.”