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Leslie Prado: Blogs

CHCI 2009 Public Policy Conference. Sept. 13-16.

Leslie Prado

The CHCI Public Policy Conference brought together many important Latinos leaders to discuss various issues concerning our community. I was overwhelmed to see panels composed completely of strong and intelligent women, in particularly Latinas, that work hard to make a difference in their communities. One of the most impressive aspects of the conference was the opportunity to be in an environment where I could listen to the expertise of the panelists, intermingle with them and the audience after the discussion, and network for future collaboration.

I felt that the conference underlined the importance of collaborating with each other to better educate, advocate, and help our communities. I had the distinct honor of presenting Congresswoman Grace Flores Napolitano in the CHCI Summit for 'Salud Mental: Discussing Youth and the Public System'. The panel discussed the approach, progress, and areas of need of mental health issues facing youth in the foster care system and the juvenile correctional system.

I enjoyed learning about Dr. Panayiota Courelli experience in the Foster Grandparent Program. This program takes in young Latino men in the correctional system and inspires in them the philosophy that they are capable of making a good impact in society. Dr. Courelli encourages us to think of different approaches to tough issues. The Foster Grandparent Program teaches these young men skills to be successful in finding a job, and even provides them with a new interviewing suit and shoes. Some in the program are given the task to train a dog that will then be given to a family in the local communities. Others take advantage of a program that removes tattoos so that those permanent images won't inhibit their changes to find job opportunities. The main goal of the program is to address the social barriers that many of these young men confront and to give them the opportunity to invest in the community so that they understand that they are also capable of positive change.

The CHCI Conference will inspire you to strengthen your voice for Latino and worldly issues. Representative from Congress and the Senate, experts of several fields, sponsors of various businesses, and students come together to learn about healthcare, economic, and immigration issues Latinos confront. I felt an enormous sense of empowerment to fight for my community. The conference week has enhanced my knowledge of what are the issues that we as Latino face and the reasons why many of these important issues are not being properly addressed. The discussion on the 2010 Census highlights this point. Panelist after panelist emphasized that the 2010 Census can have a remarkable impact on the Latino community. By filling out the census and ensuring that our families, friends, and neighbors do the same, we can allocate government dollars to our local communities. This money can be used to improve schools, hospitals, senior care centers and other areas of the communities. But if we don't do our part to ensure that 2010 is a Latino Census, then the opposite can also true. Our numbers won't be correctly counted and we could not only lose government money to our communities, but worst, we could be misrepresented in Congress and many of our issues ignored.