As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, it is important to reflect on the achievements and contributions Hispanics are making within the philanthropic space. The month of celebration runs from Sept. 15 — the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — through Oct. 15.
“The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever,” said Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a speech to law students in 1996.
I am a second-generation Hispanic American of Colombian and Dominican descent who, like Sotomayor, takes extraordinary pride in her heritage and background. As we pay tribute to Hispanic Americans who have impacted our nation in myriad ways, I would like to provide some thoughts on why this month is meaningful — and how members of the Hispanic American community are contributing to our country’s thriving tradition of private philanthropy.
Hispanics are currently the largest ethnic minority in the United States, comprising roughly 18% of our country’s total population, according to the 2020 census. The term “Hispanic” describes individuals who speak the Spanish language or those who are descended from Spanish-speaking populations.
Many Hispanic American organizations across the country seek to improve their surrounding communities by endorsing access to opportunity and creating tailored programs to aid in the success of future generations. Here are a few:
Garcia Family Foundation
“To whom much is given, much is expected, and to whom much is entrusted, much is expected.”
That’s the motto of the Garcia Family Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation located in Tampa, Florida. The foundation is dedicated to serving humanity and leaving “our communities in a better condition than we found them.” To do that, the Garcia Family Foundation promotes strong leadership and funds programs that support “at-risk youth, military families and public policy promoting free markets and individual liberties.” Their generosity is guided by their personal beliefs, and their website states, “We believe that there is a direct relationship between leading successful lives and abiding by certain values (e.g., strong work ethic, honor, selflessness, courage, frugality, generosity, intellectual curiosity and humility). Therefore, we support organizations that inculcate, promote and ascribe to these values.”
Brilla Public Charter Schools Network
The Brilla Schools Network, managed by Seton Education Partners, is another exemplary group helping to strengthen communities. Leaders at these public charter schools seek to help students “grow intellectually, socially and physically into young men and women of good character and spirit, and to be prepared for excellence in high school, college and beyond.” This network of schools, ranging in instruction from grades K-8 and based in the Bronx, New York, sets high standards and touts a research-based curriculum, ongoing professional development for teachers and “outstanding” student achievement. Through its classical approach and “rigorous, evidence-based” lessons for students, Brilla school leaders work to “ensure that every student achieves.”
The Open Door NJNY
The Open Door, profiled recently in an interview with the Roundtable, is a charitable organization committed to serving immigrant families in the greater New York and New Jersey areas by offering ESL, computer literacy and GED prep classes. Its mission is to “help immigrants become part of mainstream society,” and the results speak for themselves. According to Luis Iza, executive director and co-founder of The Open Door, in 2021, 100% of the organization’s students reported improvements in computer literacy and 75% said they felt more confident in speaking English. The Open Door’s offerings allow for these students, who are largely of Latino descent, to become strong, contributing members of society. The organization currently serves 450 people.
While I have experienced prejudice in my lifetime, I believe being a member of a thriving community of Hispanic Americans is a strength that allows many of us to feel empowered. There is great strength in numbers; after all, if one voice is heard as a whisper, then a group of voices in unison will be heard as a bell, forcing the rest to listen. We are a force that continues to create unprecedented opportunities and contribute to the vision of freedom and equality for all.
As a Latina who is proud of her roots, I urge you to indulge in our traditional foods, dance to our lively music and help other members of our community share the incredible culture that has been passed down by the many generations before us. Embrace the common Hispanic saying, “Mi casa es su casa,” which translates to, “My home is your home.” Our culture only adds to the melting pot — and the limitless opportunities — that come with the nation we call home.