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Fall 2023: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Friends and Neighbors, 

I hope you are enjoying the plentiful colors of the season. Our state is beautiful year-round, but it shows off in autumn!

In thinking of this season of change, I reflected on a change of my own when recently celebrating a milestone birthday, not just another number, but I feel it is a symbol of the wisdom and experiences I have gathered over the years. I am claiming my transition to being an elder, a stage of life in which I will seek to be more deliberate in sharing my lessons learned and providing guidance in the quest for justice and equity.

My heart is filled with gratitude as I contemplate my journey, the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats, and most importantly, the lessons learned. Like me, the Forum is also celebrating a milestone birthday, a quinceañera! Fifteen years of building Latino power, influence, and leadership.

The lessons learned and wisdom the Forum and I have amassed are hard-earned; a result of an understanding of life's complex dynamics, a perspective that often only comes with experience. While I am so inspired by the new generation of leadership that I see in our Statehouse, in our Chicago city government, and in our community, I think the challenge now, and opportunity, is: How do we share what we know? How do we contribute to easing the path for the next generation to succeed?

We begin by embracing a new phase in life focused on passing the baton of wisdom to the next generation and guiding them through their journey. We share stories of the past, lessons learned, and knowledge gathered and, in doing so, become a beacon of light for others.

It is with the future in mind that I am happy to introduce you to the newest members of the growing Forum familia. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer Juárez, director of higher education policy, Marlén Mendoza, associate director of external affairs, Graciela González, director of communications, and Brian Herrera, community education manager.

My sincerest felicidades to the Multicultural Leadership Academy class of 2023! This year’s cohort of 23 just completed the six-month program aimed at equipping a diverse group of civic leaders with the leadership skills needed to facilitate collaboration between Latinos and African-Americans through intercultural cooperation and social action. I am inspired by their work and dedication and grateful for their participation.

Wisdom is a source of power, a tool for collaboration and progress. A special thanks to MLA Manager, NiCole Ward for guiding us through another successful series of leadership workshops. Applications for the 2024 cohort have opened but close on Friday, November 3rd. If you or someone you know is interested, please apply soon!

The application for the 2024 Multicultural Leadership Academy is HERE.

The true value of wisdom lies in its ability to be disseminated and used by multiple people. When shared, information can be used to make informed decisions, develop new ideas, solve problems, or create new knowledge.

The Forum recently released three reports consistent with its mission of building a foundation for equity, justice, and economic prosperity for the Latino community through advocacy and analysis.

This month, the Forum introduced Closing the Latino wealth gap: Examining regional differences in Latino communities in collaboration with the Brookings Institution. Latinos play an essential role in shaping the U.S. economy. As one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country, Latinos have very high labor participation rates, and the number of Latinos who own homes has been steadily increasing for years. Latino-owned employer businesses continue to outpace white-owned employer businesses and U.S. businesses in general in revenue growth, with the nearly 5 million Latino-owned companies contributing over $800 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Moreover, by some estimates, Latino wealth has grown by about 7% annually for the past 20 years. Yet the financial well-being of many Latino families does not reflect many of these economic contributions, and the underlying causes of the wealth gap between Latino and white families are often misunderstood or understudied.

Read the report, HERE.

Watch the presentation, HERE.

Illinois Latino College Landscape Study: Bringing the dream of a higher education within reach for Latino students, released in September, outlines six key factors that influence Latino college preparation, access, and degree completion, as well as postgraduate achievement.

After a comprehensive review of existing research, an in-depth analysis of secondary data, and extensive consultation with the distinguished members of our Illinois Latino Landscape Study Advisory Committee, we have identified core issues as essential for supporting Latino college success.

We must do more to bring the dream of higher education within reach for these Illinois residents. By working together to address the factors that lead to educational inequities, we can break down the barriers to college access and completion—so that more Latinos can succeed in our knowledge-based economy and lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. Thank you to our VP of Education, Policy and Research, Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro.

Please find the recording of the webinar, the presentation, and key takeaways HERE.

Latinos in the Suburbs: Challenges & Opportunities, a new analysis released in August in collaboration with The Metropolitan Planning Council and UIC's Great Cities Institute, is an in-depth analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing Latinos living in suburban communities.

The report vividly tells the paradoxical story of Latinos in the suburbs, namely: Latinos are at the center of suburban macro-level economic and social growth and strength, but at the same time, the socioeconomic vitality contributed by Latinos has yet to be fully reflected in the lives of many Latinos. The report showcases both specific contributions by Latinos and challenges confronting Latinos living in the suburbs. About 1/3 of Latino growth between 2010 and 2020 was to middle class predominately non-Latino suburb, however, 2 out of every 3 Latinos live in communities that can be characterized as high hardship. This paradox of opportunity and challenges is further characterized by the tremendous growth in households earning over $75,000 a year, yet, at the same time, they are the racial/ethnic group with the lowest per capita income and have the largest percentage of workers earning less than $15 per hour.

This project is unique in painting a picture of the successes and contributions Latinos are making to the socioeconomic fabric of the suburbs while, at the same time, illustrating the challenges Latinos face in securing their own socioeconomic well-being and stability. Thank you to our Vice President of Research, Noreen Sugrue.

To view the report and presentation, please click HERE.

The final report that the Forum will present this year, Latinos in Illinois: A Brief Overview 2010 to 2021, the latest in the Statistics on Latinos (SOL) series, will be on how much the Latino community has changed in the last ten years. The study will be shared at the Latinos on the Move - Quinceañera: 15 Years of Catalyzing Change event on Friday, November 3rd, where we will be celebrating the Forum's 15 years of impact in Illinois. Watch out for that report!  

This year during the Latinos on the Move luncheon, the Latino Policy Forum will proudly honor Hipolito "Paul" Roldan with the 2023 Champion of Change Award for his decades-long leadership and staunch advocacy for improving Latino communities throughout Illinois.

Please join us on Friday, November 3, at the Union League Club of Chicago.

For more information and tickets, please click HERE.