Expert Panelists Reinforce Need for Educated Latinos During San Antonio Forum

U.S. Competitiveness in Global Market Hinges on Educational Success of Latinos

On March 30, CHCI hosted another successful education policy forum.  The event—Keeping the Promise:  Partnerships for Latino Education Success—convened more than 100 stakeholders, who included educators, students, elected officials, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and the media at The Museo Alameda in San Antonio, Texas. 

To continue this dynamic national dialogue, CHCI once again assembled three outstanding panels of powerful Latino leaders and students who discussed the growing crisis in Latino education, the need for financial aid and parental support for young Latinos, cultural roadblocks that can hinder educational pursuits, the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and the significant role that private organizations can play in public education.   

CHCI President & CEO Esther AguileraCHCI President & CEO Esther Aguilera opened the forum with some powerful and encouraging words about the importance of Latino education attainment.  She thanked the education forum sponsors who made the event possible—The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Excelencia in Education, NALEO, and Comcast/NBCUniversal/Telemundo.  Finally, she expressed gratitude to The Museo Alameda for use of its historic venue, which is the largest Hispanic museum in the country and the first formal Smithsonian affiliate outside of Washington, D.C.

Aguilera then introduced Norma Garcia, News Anchor at Noticiero Telemundo Dallas and San Antonio, the moderator of the first and third panel discussions.  CHCI Chair Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez also attended the event and moderated the second panel.

Below is a brief recap of each panel.

Keeping the Promise: Educating Our Future Workforce and Growing Consumer Base


  • Dr. Antonio Flores, President, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Dr. Steve Murdock, Former Director, U.S. Census Bureau & Professor, Rice University
  • Deborah A. Santiago, Vice President for Policy and Research, Excelencia in Education
  • Dr. Michael Soto, Associate Professor of English & Director of the McNair Scholars Program, Trinity University

Norma Garcia prefaced the discussion by sharing some important data about the Hispanic community. “The Hispanic community will play a critical role in meeting future workforce needs and what this growing population means as an important consumer base, which is expected to expand to $750 billion per year over the next five years. It is projected that nearly 80 percent of new jobs will require advanced training or postsecondary education.”

San Antonio Education forum PanelistsGarcia then opened the discussion by asking Dr. Murdock about the changing demographic of Texas and the nation as a whole.  Dr. Murdock responded by stating, “One in six citizens in Texas is Hispanic. This is just a microcosm of what our nation will become.”  Dr. Murdock continued, “We cannot be competitive in the global market without the educational success of the Latino community.”  Dr. Flores expanded this by sharing statistics on the lack of college completion rates and funding for Latinos, which is an imperative that needs to change.  Santiago agreed, stating the Latino community must take action in order to bring our (education) goals to completion.  To further the discussion, Dr. Soto offered interesting perspectives on the differences between public and private university education, to which, an audience member later added that more than 50 percent of Latinos begin their college careers in community college.

Throughout the panel, many great perspectives were offered.  One key question the panelists were asked was:  what is the one action—either legislative, curriculum based, program based, or teacher quality—that you believe will have the largest impact in increasing Latino education attainment levels?  Santiago responded by stressing the importance of investing in evidence-based practices … and the availability of financial aid is critical to college completion.”  Dr. Antonio Flores added, “We must help students graduate and find meaningful jobs.”  In closing, all panelists acknowledged that support of organizations like CHCI is essential to the future educational success of Latino youth.

Young Latino Perspective – In Their Own Voices

The second panel was moderated by CHCI Chair Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez and assembled a group of dynamic and motivated high school and college students who discussed the obstacles and personal challenges they have experienced in pursuing their academic goals.  The young Latino panelists represented the spectrum of youth that CHCI assists: high school, college, and young professionals, and like many of CHCI’s program applicants, these students are the first in their families to pursue higher education.


  • High School Perspective:  Mitzi Torres, Luther Burbank High School
  • Current College Student Perspectives:   Angelica Garcia, Arizona State, CHCI Intern Alum & Edward Soriano, Palo Alto College
  • Current College Perspective and Scholarship Recipient:  Amy M. Carrizalez, Incarnate Word, CHCI Scholar

Rep. Gonzalez with Young Latino PanelIn this session, the students gave accounts of an interesting perspective they’ve encountered—cultural road blocks in their pursuit of higher education.  “Traditional Hispanic culture still dictates that you stay at home until you get married or get a job,” said Torres, who is 18 and a senior at Burbank High School.  “Your family wants to protect you, but they have to accept (that) you have a dream and may have to leave, not just home, but the city for a better future,” she added.  Carrizalez suggested that parents encourage and inform their kids from an early age that it is an expectation they will attend college.  

Soriano, 25, noted that young Hispanic men have their own sets of cultural challenges.  The Somerset High School graduate is a single father with two children who attends Palo Alto College, having returned to study business after a six-year hiatus. “The Latino male has to fight the stigma of being a laborer,” Soriano said. “In our culture there is still an expectation that you join the workforce as soon as you can, not seeing the long-term benefits of attending college.”  Garcia noted that, on the flip side of the gender coin, Latinas encounter a lack of a support system in reaching their college goals as well.

By modifying traditional cultural expectations and encouraging parents to support their kids’ college attainment, young Latinos may find more acceptance and support in pursuing and completing postsecondary education.  This, in turn, will help change the trend and improve, not only young Latinos’ futures, but also the future of our country.

At the end of this great panel, Rep. Gonzalez urged Hispanic youth to stay in school, remain focused, seek out mentorships, and to give back to the community from which they came.

Keeping the Promise: Public-Private Partnerships in Latino Education


  • Rep. Henry Cuellar
  • Eddie Aldrete, Senior Vice President, International Bank of Commerce (IBC Bank) and 2011 Chairman, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Chris Nielsen, President, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.
  • Eyra Perez, Executive Director, San Antonio Education Partnership
  • Laura Saldivar, Executive Director, Teach For America San Antonio

Norma Garcia returned to moderate the third and final panel of the event, which discussed the role that private organizations can and do play in the public education of Latinos.  To open this discussion, Garcia asked about the San Antonio Education Forum Panelistsgreater goals sought in the Latino community of all the organizations involved.  Perez stated, “The partnership has preserved the role of convening relationships.”  Saldivar offered, “We seek to reach a goal beyond a traditional norm in the Hispanic community, which is we don’t complete school and become laborers.”  To this point, Nielsen stressed the importance for Toyota management to have Latino representation.  In fact, ensuring that Latinos earn management positions with companies is an important facet and indicator of future success, and is dependent on Latinos attending and completing college. 

Rep. CuellarNoting that only one of five eighth graders will go on to obtain higher education, Rep. Cuellar encouraged involvement from companies of all sizes to support a common goal of education.  Perez emphasized that companies should “find something that can help and then help.”  The panelists all agreed that getting parents involved is another critical success factor.

Next, panelists discussed the roles their specific companies are playing to support Latino education.  Aldrete stated that IBC Bank created a micro-society with select elementary schools that teaches youth about the importance of banking.  Nielsen added, “At Toyota, we strive to promote programs that teach the youth about science and technology to lead the next generation of successful Latinos.”  With innovations from organizations like these, over the next 10 years, San Antonio will be a model for the country of how to enhance the Latino community.

In closing, panelists agreed that three factors will impact society most over the next 10 years:  demographics, technology, and education.  These are areas that the Latino community can focus on and excel in for future success.

Continuing the Conversation

Continuing the Conversation ReceptionAfter the lively and thought-provoking sessions, the event ended with a networking luncheon, sponsored exclusively by Comcast/NBCUniversal/Telemundo, which allowed attendees to get to know the panelists and extend the important dialogue begun during the morning's panels.

Innovative ideas and thoughtful examination of the Latino education crisis were the keystones of CHCI’s education forum.  CHCI thanks all of its panelists for their time and expertise as well as the attendees who supported this outstanding event.  The next education forum will be held in Miami on May 21.  Check the CHCI website soon for details.

View the Photo Gallery from the event