Nonprofits Push for Hispanic Leaders in Austin

FuturoFun imageWhatever you think of Austin’s surge in the Hispanic population, there’s no denying that it creates a need for more Hispanic leaders. And as usual, Austin’s nimble nonprofit organizations are responding to the need.

By the year 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will be Latino, according to demographic projections. In Travis County it’s already happening: Hispanics accounted for 34 percent of the population in 2012. Hispanics will need role models, business connections, mentors, principals, teachers … a whole network of people looking out for Hispanic success.

To think of it another way, imagine that Hispanics currently occupied all the leadership roles in the city. How would a white young professional fare in this scenario?

In 2014 this issue will affect an entire city with the enactment of Austin’s 10-1 representation on the Austin City Council. For decades, it operated under a “gentleman’s agreement” that reserved one seat for a Hispanic and another for an African-American on the council, with all city council members serving at-large. But as Matt Largey reports in this KUT story, it was less about encouraging diversity and more about controlling it.

In the November 2014 elections, the Austin City Charter will change to create 10 geographic districts, with one city council person being elected from each. According to a report by the Austin Bulldog, Ryan Robinson, the city demographer, said it will be near-impossible to have an all-white council, also noting that the current city council members all live within 3-4 miles of each other.

So who will the Hispanic City Council candidates be in the 2014 election? How do we make sure there’s a steady pipeline of more? There are several profession-specific associations in Austin, but these three organizations stand out for going beyond networking.

Hispanic Austin Leadership graduates about 30 leaders and really focuses on teaching them the biggest issues facing Austin’s Hispanic community today. Over the course of about a school year, HAL participants meet once a month to hear guest speakers in on different issues and get to learn more about their leadership capabilities. Participants are also grouped into issue areas and are required to work on a community service project.

Applications are now being accepted through July 12 for the next cohort.

Young Hispanic Professional Association of Austin, or YHPAA, serves as the principal professional resource for young Hispanics in the Austin and Central Texas area, all toward a goal of building a thriving Hispanic professional community. And with annual membership dues of just $35, anyone can join. Like other young professional organizations there are three elements to their work – networking, camaraderie and fundraising.

Throughout the year members host events to raise money for the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, a program that not only offers a unique scholarship match program but also gives students mentoring and guidance throughout their college years. The YHPAA will host an upcoming annual gala on July 19, so there’s plenty of time to buy a ticket, raise money and get to know the organizations.

Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin is a self-professed centralized hub for Latinos interested. Its goal is to serve as a main hub of information for issues facing Latinos. In doing so, HABLA becomes a resource for Hispanics investigating the issues that affect Austin Hispanics the most. This year, HABLA leaders assembled a list of the most significant people, issues and moments for Hispanics in Austin in 2012. The list includes items like the vote to initiate the 10-1 plan for geographic representation on the City Council as well as the 50-year anniversaries of two East Austin family businesses. HABLA exists as a group on Facebook, and anyone can join.

FuturoFund is a classic giving circle with an important difference: 100% of member contributions go to support Latino-focused organizations in Austin, as selected by its members. Each year, FuturoFund enlists dozens of members who pay $500 each to participate. Throughout the year it hosts events to keep its members informed about the issues facing Hispanics today. Toward the end of its year, it solicits applications from nonprofits that serve the Latino community specifically. The applications are narrowed down to less than 10, then those are presented to FuturoFund members who then vote to decide which organizations receive the grants – one member, one vote.

Perhaps because FuturoFund members contribute their own money to the cause, there’s a bigger sense of wanting to know more about the issues. And whenever someone feels an issue affects them personally — Hispanic, white or otherwise — they’re more likely to get involved.

Learn more about each of these organizations and where you might fit in best.




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