Blogs

CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Graduate Fellow Blog Series: Grant Barbosa

Eduardo Gonzalez

2014-15 CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Fellows

Grant Barbosa, CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Health Graduate Fellow

Hello again! I’m excited to be blogging month. While we’re only maybe a month and a half into the fellowship (side note: wow!), I’ve had the opportunity to do a great deal of substantive work and learn a significant amount through my work at the American Public Health Association (APHA) as well as CHCI’s Friday programming. 

At APHA, I have worked on a great deal of issue areas and topics in a variety of settings. I’m currently in the process of drafting guides for APHA’s membership in order for them to better understand the acceptable bounds of personal advocacy as well as how to reach out to a congressional staffer. I also had the chance to utilize my legal background and review amicus briefs that the APHA’s outside counsel was working on as well as briefs that organizations had asked the APHA to join. I imagine one of the organizations was a bit surprised when we forwarded a slew of substantive edits, but a few were actually incorporated into the brief that was filed with the Supreme Court! I also wrote the state level and international policy briefs in the monthly legislative updates that APHA sends to its members.

I’ve served as APHA’s representative in a variety of settings. I’ve met with administration officials from agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget. I’ve observed meetings for the advisory board of the National Institutes for Health’s National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities, which advises the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, an academic advisory committee that supports the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA in developing nutrition policy for the dietary guidelines for Americans. On Capitol Hill, I’ve been to briefings on opioid abuse as well as crime prevention and youth development. Finally, I’ve participated in strategy meetings for coalitions of public health focused nonprofits, which will serve as an interesting counterpoint to my experiences on the Hill this spring.

In addition to the work that I am doing for APHA, I’ve also attended CHCI's weekly programming. The greatest experiences in programming have been our meetings with people in a variety of positions in government and nonprofit organizations. The meetings with Mildred Otero, the education counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Maria Teresa Kumar, the CEO and president of Voto Latino, were especially impactful. Mildred was very frank in discussing her experiences on and off Capitol Hill, offering us a great deal of advice and insight. With Maria, we discussed major policy issues, such as increasing Latino voter turnout. These interactions with people who previously were in similar positions as the current fellows (either in fellowships or recently out of graduate programs) show what type of trajectory that we may be going on, but also allowed us to engage in the types of discussions reminiscent of those that took place in the salons of the French Enlightenment. Sorry for being aggressively nerdy with that last line, but if you have made it this far, thanks for reading.

Until next time!

CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Graduate Fellows Arrive in Washington, D.C.

Eduardo Gonzalez

2014-15 CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Fellows

Grant Barbosa, CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Health Graduate Fellow

Greetings and salutations everyone! I'm Grant Barbosa, one of the CHCI PepsiCo Health Graduate Fellows. I hail from the great state of Illinois and have just graduated from law school. In law school, I worked extensively on policy relating to public health, health care, and food access.  My placement for the first half of the CHCI Fellowship is with the American Public Health Association.

Orientation week was a blast! We had the opportunity to meet with several people with amazing experiences in a variety of government positions, including Maria Meier and Alejandra Castillo. Additionally, we received significant guidance on what to expect during our time in D.C. as well as support from previous fellows on what the experience provided them. Orientation also included an experiential component, featuring a high ropes training course that Araceli, another PepsiCo Health Graduate fellow, and I partnered to conquer.

I look forward to sharing updates throughout the year, but, more importantly, to use this opportunity to help influence health policy for the better! Ciao!

Araceli Gutierrez, CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Health Graduate Fellow

As a CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Health Graduate Fellow, I am excited to have arrived in Washington, D.C. Having recently graduated with my masters of science from the Harvard School of Public Health, I am certain this fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to develop my leadership and advocacy skills in generating innovative approaches to improve the level of access, quality of health care and social policies impacting Latino communities. I look forward to beginning my congressional office placement in the office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard.

During the first week of CHCI orientation, I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of accomplished, committed and inspiring CHCI staff, alumni, and fellows. I look forward to working with and learning from them during the course of the fellowship and beyond!

Israel Nery, CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Law Graduate Fellow

My name is Israel Nery. It's a great honor to have been selected as the CHC-PepsiCo Law Graduate Fellow. I just recently graduated from the University of Illinois with my juris doctor. For the first half of my fellowship I will be placed with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.

We just concluded orientation week, and it's been a transformative experience so far. Being introduced to Latino leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sector has been an eye opening experience and testament of the improvement of Latino representation in these sectors. In essence, it has made me realize that I also can eventually earn one of these coveted positions with hard work. Getting acquainted with my cohort of fellows has also been amazing. Every fellow has done something amazing in their respective hometown, and being surrounded with great minds, and passionate people will only help cultivate the purpose that has driven me to pursue this fellowship and work in D.C. 

I'm excited with the challenges that will be presented during my fellowship. I know that in the future, I will look back to this fellowship, and credit it with propelling me to great success. 

CHCI Public Policy Conference

Ulises Gonzalez

One of the most impressive aspects of the CHCI Public Policy Conference is the opportunity to meet and network with many professionals and prominent leaders across the United States. Listening to President Obama's speech was a highlight of the conference. He emphasized about the importance of developing the next generation of Latino Leaders and explained that many Latina/os have been appointed to government positions during his first tenure as president. Great news and motivation to the next generation of Latina/o leaders.

Attending the CHCI conference allowed me to learn from many politicians including US Representatives and Senators. Listening to various speakers and panelist allowed me hear about the issues that policy makers face at ground zero of policy making. After the conference, I realized that stakeholders have a powerful and direct influence in policy-making process. As constituents, we have the power to influence public opinion, which is a driving factor in political decisions. The Latino community needs to get more involved in our political system to influence policy! The Latino community needs to come together in health care and immigration reform.

CHCI HHM

Andrew Lomeli

Perhaps my favorite aspect of CHCI's Public Policy Conference and Gala was being surrounded by successful Latinos eager to offer their encouragement. Everywhere one turns, there was someone with a smile and enthusiasm toward his or her work. Though "work" is probably not the best word; for these individuals, it is truly a matter of passion. On a very personal level, listening to the only Latino U.S. senator, Robert Menendez, was especially inspiring. He brought valuable perspective to the current immigration debate in front of people who have such a large vested interest in the topic. The ardor with which he spoke demonstrated just how passionate our communities must be toward the issues that impact us. He also serves as a reminder that all can accomplish what they set their mind to, so long as they invest the appropriate effort and enthusiasm. I would recommend that people attending the conference maintain an open mind toward the material to which they will be exposed. Also, be sure to seize every opportunity presented and do not second-guess yourself.

Conference Week- A Call to Action

Andres Olivo

This year's conference week flew by, with little time to catch ones breath. When I look back at this week's events, I truly am grateful that I can participate with the prime leaders and decision makers of our great nation. It was like being at an NBA All-Star game, being in the presence of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Senator Robert Menendez, Speaker Nancy Pelosi etc... I am use to seeing these members of Congress on TV, never mind brushing shoulders with them. The advantage of attending the CHCI Conference is that one could hear the latest information from the top policy officials. One day you could learn the issues confronting health care while the next hour you learn about the green economy and how it can positively impact our Latino communities. I attended the Healthcare Reform: Impact on the Latino Community summit. The summit moderator was the Hon. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a congresswoman leading the fight for health care reform. By attending this summit, it gave me a chance to hear from health care leaders who pressed why health care reform is so badly needed. Each presenter was armed with statistics, personal experience, and patient testimonials that truly showed me the dire realities that people are facing because of the lack of health care and health professionals in their communities. As the week went by, it confirmed the importance of being involved as a participant of policy building rather than a bystander. There are many other stakeholders, policy experts, public officials, and community organizers that are a wealth of knowledge and motivation. If you are truly invested in trying to make an impact for our communities and Nation than you can connect with others and inform yourself and your community about how to get involved and create a change in policy.

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.

CHCI Public Policy Conference

Evelia Castillo

The CHCI Public Policy Conference was amazing. The extraordinary group of Latino leaders and distinguished panelists provided insightful and enlightening perspectives on the issues facing Latinos in our communities. As a Fellow, it was mind-blowing to be in the company of accomplished Latino leaders such as U.S. Representative and CHCI Chair Nydia M. Velazquez, Hon. Luis V. Gutierrez, Hon. Jose Serrano, Hon. Grace Napolitano, Hon. Ruben Hinojosa, and Senator Robert Menendez, among others. Senator Robert Menendez's and U.S. Representative Luis V. Gutierrez's passionate speeches on immigration issues and the discrimination and prejudice that still exist towards Latinos in America were moving and inspiring. I felt privileged to have been able to hear their words and exchange of ideas. It was illuminating to hear so many experts speak on a variety of topics such as education, healthcare, and immigration. As I listened to the panelists I realized that this was one part of how public policy is formulated: through open and honest dialogue that moves us forward on a certain issue or topic. The CHCI Conference was an eye-opening experience as well. At times the issues facing the Latino community may seem overwhelming but the conference demonstrates that there are many motivated and talented Latinos out there that can and will bring positive change within our community. As someone who had never attended the CHCI Conference, I walked away with a resurge of confidence that as Latinos we have the strength and perseverance to overcome anything and everything thrown our way.

Conference

Judith Davila

The conference dealt with a host of policy issues facing not only the Hispanic community but also the nation as a whole. It was exciting to see the number of prominent Latino talent actively involved in tackling this gamut of concerns. I found it especially encouraging to learn of our community's growing presence in both the private and public sectors. The Latinos Leading Immigration Reform plenary was a highlight of the week for me. Listening to the passion with which Senator Menendez and Representative Gutierrez voiced their frustrations surrounding the progress of immigration reform definitely left a lasting impression. Not only did they both do a good job of streamlining the issue and its implications for our community in their presentations, they made clear the urgent action needed to achieve reform during the Obama administration. The value in attending CHCI's annual conference comes from the exposure to a variety of policy issues as well as the key people involved in said policy's formulation. Not only do you quickly become familiar with the work that needs to be done, but the inroads and progress that has already been made in these different areas on behalf of the Latino community, which is equally important in understanding these issues. The conference reiterated to me the idea that "knowledge is power". Forums like the ones provided by the conference setting allow a variety of people to become literate in areas outside their specialization, making them as a result, more comparable leaders and better representatives for the Latino community.

Thanks to the CHCI Staff

Rita Rico

I was once asked if there was any one cultural value that all Americans share. It took me years to think of a proper response. I have come to believe that Americans value when events or talent comes off as "effortless." Next time you read a newspaper or magazine, you'll notice that "effortless" is used as the highest compliment to someone's abilities. The ironic part is that to make something look effortless, one has to work harder behind the scenes than anyone can imagine. Tonight, I saw both the hard work of the CHCI staff behind the scenes and the effortless result. The Obamas and the Lopezes (a nod to Marc Anthony sending a shot out to his wife JLo) were there tonight, as well as Sotomayor and almost every other Latino politician you've heard of, and many more you haven't heard of (yet!). Yet, EVERYTHING went smoothly! Thank you to the CHCI staff for being so top notch. One more thought-- The most amazing part of the program was when Speaker Pelosi and then President Obama referred to the CHCI fellows as the future of America. CHCI gives us unmatched exposure to public service. I feel so honored to be a part of the CHCI family and to be supported by my community in such an overpowering way-- Even the President was there to cheerlead alongside nuestra gente! Tonight was unforgettable.

Immigration Reform Now

Rita Rico

It was the end of the day and I was feeling a bit cranky after an early morning that began with a teething baby and a 7am metro ride. I glanced at the program and internally moaned when I saw the plenary title: "Here we go... Yet another conversation about immigration." However, I was in for a surprise! After Cecilia Munoz -- who for so long was the "brain behind NCLR"-- gave us the scoop on the White House timeline for immigration reform, Senator Menendez gave a memorable speech about the importance of comprehensive immigration reform and the need to stop the anti-Latino sentiments that surround the policy debates. He said that he has heard the term "those people" a lot in the past couple of years, and that when people say "esa gente" in order to separate themselves as true citizens and de-humanize those who do not have such status, it's not a derogatory term reserved just for those without legal status in the US. Menendez said that "esa gente" refers also to you and me, my fellow Latino-identified. It took me a whole dissertation to explain the message he just so eloquently imparted. I had goosebumps as I stood to lead the standing ovation. Then, Rep. Gutierrez took the stage and calmly began his crescendo towards demanding equality for the hardworking Americans who are ostracized and thus vulnerable to sexual abuse and worker exploitation. I held back tears as he told personal stories that gave real faces to the 12 million undocumented Americans who need a solution in order to experience the basic freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Afterwards, I caught up with him to tell him I am from his district (Logan Square in Chi-town), and that I campaigned for his first campaign for alderman alongside my dad Matias Rico. He gave me a hug and said he was proud that I was a fellow! The kind of access that CHCI gives us can't be measured. I'm feeling grateful and you can bet that my crankiness disappeared for good this afternoon!

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