Blogs

Week Seven: Reflections of the CHCI Experience / Semana Siete: Reflexiones de la Experiencia CHCI

Eduardo Gonzalez

I remember the day I said goodbye to my family in San Antonio Airport at 5am with no idea of what to expect. On the flight from Chicago, I randomly met the person who would be one of my roommates and who later became one of my best friends. I met my other two roommates once I got to my apartment: one from the Bronx and the other one from Puerto Rico. I learned with my roommates how to cook fried plantains, how to bend my ties and to understand the lyrics of reggueton songs. I was welcomed with open arms in my office. I worked alongside seven interns, most of them from Laredo, who taught me from how to prepare coffee to how to get to the Library of Congress for the underground tunnels. My boss, the Congressman, greeted me all the time and made sure I was learning. As part of my intern duties, I helped translate press releases, editorials, attended press conferences, congressional briefings and hearings, and helped as an interpreter at a meeting between the Department of Agriculture with Mexican authorities. Since few people in Congress know how to write in Spanish correctly, they constantly sent me from my office to help other legislative offices to translate documents. I was even able to translate a document for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In addition, I had the opportunity to go to the nomination hearing of Elena Kagan to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, administer Capitol tours, enter to the courtroom of the Supreme Court, attend a Senate hearing, enter to the gallery of the House of Representatives, attend a reception at the Inter-American Development Bank and … to close with a flourish ... go to the White House offices. To make things better, at the end of my internship on the Hill, the Congressman offered me to help him in the campaign for re-election back in the district. I go back home more than satisfied. I return with enthusiasm, with joy and with an eye focused in the future; a future with many opportunities, many doors, many options from where to choose from. I return with contacts, I return with friends, but above all, I return with enthusiasm to share my experience with my community. I return to encourage young people not only dream, but to plan. Not only to plan, but to act. Not only to act, but to apply.

 

Recuerdo el día en que me despedí de mi familia en el aeropuerto de San Antonio a las 5am sin ninguna idea de lo que me esperaba. En el vuelo de Chicago repentinamente conocí a quien seria uno de mis compañeros de cuarto y quien se convertiría en uno de mis mejores amigos. Al llegar al mi departamento conocí a mis otros dos compañeros de cuarto: uno del Bronx y el otro de Puerto Rico. Con mis compañeros aprendí a cocinar plátano frito, cómo doblar mis corbatas y a entender las canciones de reggueton. En mi oficina me recibieron con los brazos abiertos. Trabaje a lado de siete internos, su mayoría de Laredo, que me enseñaron desde como hacer café hasta como llegar a la Librería del Congreso por los túneles subterráneos. Mi jefe, el Congresista, siempre me saludaba y todo el tiempo se aseguraba que estuviera aprendiendo. Como parte de mis practicas, ayude a traducir comunicados de prensa, editoriales, asistir a conferencias de prensa, entrar a sesiones informativas en el Congreso y ayudar como interprete en una junta entre el Departamento de Agricultura con autoridades mexicanas. Como en el Congreso pocas personas saben escribir en español correctamente, constantemente me mandaban a ayudar a otras oficinas legislativas para traducir documentos. Inclusive pude traducir un documento para la líder de la Cámara de Representantes, Nancy Pelosi. Además, tuve la oportunidad de ir a la nominación de Elena Kagan para ser jueza de la Suprema Corte, administrar tours en el Capitolio, entrar al tribunal de la Suprema Corte de Justicia, asistir a una sesión del Senado, ingresar a la Cámara de Representantes, asistir a una recepción en el Banco Inter-Americano de Desarrollo y para cerrar con broche de oro... ir a las oficinas de la Casa Blanca. Por si fuera poco, a final de mis practicas en el Congreso, el Congresista me ofreció ayudarle en la campana de reelección en el distrito. Regreso a casa más que satisfecho. Regreso con entusiasmo, con alegría y con la vista puesta en el futuro. Un futuro amplio y con muchas oportunidades, muchas puertas, muchas opciones de donde elegir. Regreso con contactos, regreso con amigos, pero sobretodo, regreso con el entusiasmo de compartir mi experiencia con mi comunidad. Y regreso con ánimo para alentar a los jóvenes a no solo soñar pero planear. No solo planear, sino actuar. Y no solo actuar pero aplicar.

Semana Seis: Creado Coaliciones/ Week Six: Coalition Building

Eduardo Gonzalez

“L’Union Fait la Force,” which literally means Unity Makes Strength, is the phrase that flies the flag of the Haitian nation, which after being damaged by an earthquake, gave honor to this sentence by working side by side with the thousands of international volunteers who helped in the reconstruction work. Many times we need to build coalitions to achieve our goals. If we pay attention, we may find other groups that share similar goals to ours. If we unite, we can make our voices rebound and make ourselves be heard. To establish such coalitions, we need sincere conversations without prejudice. The interns from the Hispanic, African American and Asian American Institutes, were given the task of analyzing the education reform through a simulation in order to build coalitions. To do this, we had to get rid of our mutual cultural biases and analyze the needs of our communities. It was an enriching experience for me to interact and work along side many young leaders from other races. I realized that through commitment and compromise, we moved the project forward and brought our communities together to support the nomination of our candidate in the simulation.

“L’Union Fait la Force”, La Unión hace la Fuerza, es la frase que ondea en la bandera de la nación Haitiana, que después de haber sido arrasada por un terremoto, dio honor a dicha frase al trabajar lado a lado de los miles de voluntarios internacionales que ayudaron en las labores de reconstrucción. Muchas veces se necesita crear coaliciones para lograr nuestras metas. Si nos ponemos a buscar, encontraremos que talvez existen otros grupos con objetivos similares a los nuestros que, si nos unimos, podremos hacer retumbar nuestra voz y hacernos escuchar. Para el establecimiento dichas alianzas, se necesitan entablar conversaciones sinceras y sin prejuicios. En el ejercicio que realizamos los becarios de los institutos Hispano, Afro Americano y Asiático, se nos dio la tarea de analizar la reforma educativa mediante un simulacro con el objetivo de crear coaliciones. Para ello tuvimos que despejarnos de nuestros prejuicios culturales mutuos y analizar las necesidades de nuestras comunidades. Fue una experiencia enriquecedora para mí poder convivir con jóvenes lideres de otras culturas, Me di cuenta de que a través de compromisos y tratos, pudimos sacar adelante el proyecto y unir a nuestras comunidades para apoyar la candidatura de nuestro candidato ficticio en el simulacro.

Week Five: Giving Back to the Community / Semana Cinco: Devolviendo a la Comunidad

Eduardo Gonzalez

Doing community service allows us to feel part of the community, forces us to leave our comfort zone and engage in different activities to help others. Having worked for a day as a volunteer in the construction area made me value the admirable work carried out by thousands of construction workers in the country. In addition, knowing that the houses built by volunteers will go to families that need them and interacting with other workers and volunteers in the construction of such houses made me feel part of the Washington community.

El hacer servicio comunitario nos permite sentirnos parte de la comunidad, nos obliga a salir de nuestra zona de confort e involucrarnos en diferentes actividades para ayudar a otros. El haber trabajado por un día como voluntario en el área de la construcción me hizo valorar la admirable labor que desempeñan miles de albañiles en el país. Además, el saber que las casas que construimos por voluntarios irán para familias de escasos recursos y el convivir con los trabajadores y los otros voluntarios en la construcción de dichas casas me hizo sentir parte de la comunidad de Washington.

Week Four: The Voices of the American People / Semana Cuatro: Las Voces del Pueblo Estadounidense

Eduardo Gonzalez

Working in Congress allowed me to notice the ideological conflict between our representatives and how these differences can slow the legislative process. Elena Kagan's nomination for Supreme Court justice is not an exception. Senate Judiciary Committee, comprising of members from both parties, bombarded Kagan with all kinds of questions to make sure she was the indicated person to occupy the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, which should be stressed that it is a job for life. However, Kagan responded by saying "The court must respect the decisions of the American people." This comment rebounded in the headlines and aroused the discontent of those who believe that the court should simply interpret the law and render its verdict. Even though she served as dean of Harvard Law School, many in the judiciary committee consider that Kagan does not have the necessary experience to fill the position because she has no experience as a judge in a lower court. However, this comment shows the human side of Kagan. It shows that the law is complex, that life is not black and white only and the court must analyze each case thoroughly and realize that their decisions will affect the lives of millions of people.

El trabajar en el Congreso de EEUU me ha permitido notar los contrastes ideológicos entre nuestros representantes y cómo esas diferencias pueden desacelerar el proceso legislativo. La nominación de Elena Kagan para jueza de la Suprema Corte no se queda atrás. Senadores del comité Judicial, compuesto por miembros de ambos partidos, bombardearon a Kagan con todo tipo de preguntas para asegurarse que ella fuera la indicada ocupar el puesto vacante en la Suprema Corte, que cabe recalcar que es un puesto de por vida. Sin embargo, ante las interrogantes del comité judicial, Kagan respondió diciendo “La corte debe respetar las decisiones del pueblo estadounidense”. Este comentario rebotó en los titulares de los periódicos y despertó el descontento de quienes creen que la corte simplemente debe interpretar la ley y dictar su veredicto. A pesar de fungir como decana de la Escuela de Leyes de Harvard, muchos en el comité judicial consideran que Kagan no tiene la experiencia necesaria para ocupar el puesto ya que no tiene experiencia como jueza en una corte menor. Sin embargo, este comentario muestra el lado humano de Kagan. Muestra que la ley es compleja, que la vida no es de blanco y negro y que por consiguiente la corte debe analizar cada caso meticulosamente ya que sus decisiones repercutirán en la vida de millones de personas.

 

Week One: The First Week in Washington DC / Semana Uno: La Primer Semana en Washington DC

Eduardo Gonzalez

Museums, monuments, and embassies decorate the District of Columbia that, with its Greek-Roman columns and pilasters, attracts the curiosity of its tourists and demand the respect of its visitors. As a father who hugs his children, Washington DC welcomed us with that humidity that characterizes it. Thirty Latino students from all over the country united to learn together, laugh together, live together, explore together, and discover together. The first week was full with panels, workshops, and preparation seminars. I learned from how to use utensils properly in a gala event, to how to write properly for Congress. Always surrounded by prepared people ready and willing to help us. I felt as part of a new family, the CHCI family.

Museos, monumentos y embajadas decoran el Distrito de Columbia, que, con sus columnas y capiteles grecorromanos, atrae la curiosidad de los turistas y exige el respeto de los viajantes. Como el padre que abraza a sus hijos, Washington DC nos dio la bienvenida con ese calor húmedo que lo caracteriza. Treinta estudiantes Latinos de todos los rincones del país reunidos para aprender juntos, reír juntos, vivir juntos, explorar juntos y descubrir juntos. La primer semana estuvo llena de paneles, talleres y módulos de preparación. Aprendí desde como usar los cubiertos en cenas de gala, hasta como escribir apropiadamente para el Congreso. Siempre acompañados con gente preparada y contenta de ayudarnos. Me sentí miembro de una nueva familia, la familia CHCI.

 

 

Semana Tres: Los Más Destacado del Capitolio/ Week Three: Highlights of the Hill

Eduardo Gonzalez

Una oficina llena de sonrisas, apretones de manos y un escritorio con una computadora me dieron la bienvenida en mi primer día de trabajo en el Capitolio. Después de presentarme con todos mis compañeros en la oficina, se me instruyó en las tareas que desempeñaría en la oficina. Nada podía salir mal. Si algún error cometía, siempre podía decir “es mi primer día” y como por arte de magia, mi error desaparecía y las sonrisas regresaban. Para mi sorpresa, esa excusa sólo me sirvió un día. A la mañana siguiente me topé con una dificultad para la cual no me había preparado. El estrés, el atender llamadas de constituyentes enojados y el descifrar terminología legislativa desconocida para mí, fueron los mayores retos que enfrenté esa primer semana. Sin embargo, recordé que no estaba solo. Mis compañeros del instituto, quienes atravesaban por retos similares, me sirvieron como apoyo para aclimatarme a este nuevo ambiente. Por supuesto, los ánimos que mis seres queridos me enviaban desde casa también me ayudaron mucho. Todo ese apoyo me ayudó a ver las cosas desde otro ángulo y cambiar mi actitud ante este nuevo reto. De esa forma, ayudé como traductor en una junta con el Departamento de Agricultura con autoridades mexicanas, traduje los comunicados de prensa del congresista al español, administré tours en el Capitolio en español para constituyentes y asistí a sesiones informativas en el Congreso. Me gusta mi trabajo y las oportunidades disponibles en el Congreso.

 

An office full of smiles, handshakes and a desk with a computer welcomed me on my first day working on Capitol Hill. After introducing myself to the rest of the staff, my supervisor showed me what my duties would be in the office. Nothing could go wrong. If I ever made a mistake, I could always say “it’s my first day” and all the smiles would come back. Unfortunately, that excuse just worked one day. On the next day, I encountered a challenge that I wasn’t ready to face. The stress, answering phone calls of angry constituents and deciphering legislative terminology unknown for me, were the biggest challenges I faced on my first week. Nonetheless, I remembered that I wasn’t alone. My CHCI roommates, who also encountered similar challenges, supported me to acclimate to this new environment. Of course, all the good vibes from my loved ones sent me from home also helped me to see things from another angle and to change my attitude toward this new challenge. As a result, I helped as a translator in a meeting between the Department of Agriculture and Mexican authorities, I translated press releases from my congressman to Spanish, administered tours of the Capitol in Spanish to constituents and attended congressional briefings. I love my job and the opportunities available on the Hill.

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.

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