July 24, 2018
Latino Engagement: the only path to be included in political decision making and leadership initiatives
By: Nicolás Peña

This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog

Para leer este artículo en español, clic aquí.

“Civic Engagement is the only tool that guarantees the inclusion of the Latino community in the decisions made by policymakers in the US.” It was the conclusion reached by most of the participants that attended the Empowerment & Civic Engagement Training (ECET), conducted by the National Hispanic Council on Aging, (NHCOA) that concluded this weekend.

Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA, explained that the content of the ECET program seeks to give a voice to silent communities. “It is important and necessary that minorities continue to participate in decision making on majority issues. The only way to guarantee our economic security is by participating actively, making our real needs known, and generating constructive proposals, being self-constructive.”

Supported by Montgomery County, through the Latino Health Initiative (LHI), NHCOA adds to its network 35 new public health promoters nationwide who are committed to encouraging the civic engagement of communities, during the upcoming midterm elections.

Sonia Mora, Senior Manager of LHI, highlighted the need to put into practice all the necessary tools to positively impact the image of the Latino community in American public opinion. “Seeing the passion of this group of promoters and the campaigns developed by them during the training I feel very optimistic about their natural leadership. This is contradictory to the image of Hispanics nationwide that some people in the national media are trying to relay in this country.”

This intensive 15-hour training also included El Tiempo Latino Executive Editor, Rafael Ulloa, Luis Larín, United Workers’ Leadership Organizer, Pablo Blank, Manager of Immigrant Integration of CASA, and Dr. Antonio Iglesias, Vaccines Medical Director of Pfizer.

Empowerment & Civic Engagement Training is one part of the annual Regional Conferences that NHCOA conducts in several cities in the US. The city of Silver Spring, MD served as host to  a Town Hall –  Building Bridges to Engage Diverse Communities.

It was a culturally and linguistically sensitive space in which Hispanic older adults and their caregivers came together to discuss issues impacting their lives while connecting with local leaders, advocates, service providers, family members, and policymakers to work toward solutions that address the community’s specific needs.

“During the upcoming midterm elections, NHCOA’s goal is to commit to empowering Hispanic older adults through their civic participation as a way to guarantee their economic security. We need to encourage older adults to get informed and to participate in the upcoming election process, and also to encourage their family members to do the same. This population is dramatically growing and is becoming increasingly diverse,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz.

The following list below represents the contributors and participants who were present at NHCOA’s Town Hall – Building Bridges to Engage Diverse Communities:


 Alonso Castillo – News Reporter – Telemundo, Washington DC

Welcoming remarks:

Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA

Sonia Mora, Senior Manager of the Latino Health Initiative

Yvette Peña, AARP’s Vice President for Hispanic/Latino Audience Strategy

Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Councilmember

Tom Hucker, Montgomery County Councilmember

Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Councilmember


Khelan Bhatia, AARP Senior Advisor for Voter Education

Rhonda Richards, Senior Legislative Representative in Government Affairs at AARP

Wendy Chun-Hoon, Co-director of Family Values @ Work

Lylie Fisher, Facilitator for the Caregiver Support Program at Area Agency on Aging from Montgomery County

Dr. Anna Maria Izquierdo-Porrera, Executive Director of Care for Your Health

Kim Callinan, Chief Program Officer for Compassion & Choices

Rima Matsumoto, Partner Engagement Team at NIH’s All of Us Research Program

Ana Nelson, Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter

Closing remarks:

 Lillian Cruz, Senator Van Hollen’s Senior Adviser

Angela Ostrom, Senior Director Advocacy & Strategic Alliances at PhRMA

NHCOA’s Regional Conference: Building Bridges to Engage Diverse Communities in Silver Spring, MD, was supported by: AARPAll of UsPhRMAAetna Foundation,  Montgomery CountyThe Latino Health InitiativeAlzheimer’s AssociationTelemundoHerbalife, and Matrix.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.