Mason’s Arlington campus hosted a state summit lead by Governor McAuliffe this past August that aimed to increase support for Virginia’s Latino community.
President Ángel Cabrera introduced McAuliffe’s Latino Summit, the first of its kind, with a speech after being asked by McAuliffe and his team if Mason would like to host the event.
“[The Governor and his team] are aware that the Latino population is becoming such an important part of Northern Virginia and of Mason that it made total sense for it [the summit] to be here,” Cabrera said.
On McAuliffe’s Latino Summit website, the mission of the summit is described as a way “to inform Latino Virginians about state resources and services available to them. This will also provide Governor McAuliffe’s administration with input on issues impacting the Latino community in areas of Education, Health & Human Resources, Workforce Development and Small Business.”
The summit, which took place on August 5, was comprised of several sessions with names like “A Pathway to a Healthy Virginia: Health & Social Services Resources” and “Empowering Latino Success Through Higher Education and Workforce Development,” among others.
Julian Williams, the Vice President of the Office of Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics at Mason, was a member of Cabrera’s team that attended the higher education and workforce development session. He said the purpose of that particular workshop was to assist members of the Latino population in obtaining academic degrees through a variety of means, including the transfer program that Mason has with Northern Virginia Community College, scholarships, and trade and technical schools. He said statistics show that receiving a college education results in a higher salary and better financial stability.
Cabrera said he believes the best way to empower any community is through education. He said one way Mason helps the local Latino community is through the Early Identification Program (EIP). The EIP partners with local school districts and identifies middle school students with academic potential who have a hard time making it to college because of family circumstances or lack of financial resources. Cabrera said that 95 percent of the students the EIP helps are able to attend college.
“That’s the kind of thing we can do to make sure no one who has the potential and the talent misses the opportunity to grow,” Cabrera said.
Freshman Angel Umana and sophomore Carlos Bustamante both agree that Mason has a strong Latino presence, as evidenced by the various Hispanic cultural clubs, sororities and fraternities on campus.
“The university itself embraces diversity, so that has allowed many Latino students to attend at Mason and form many clubs and organizations,” Bustamante said.
While programs at Mason such as the EIP exist, however, senior Andy Miranda thinks the university can do more.
“I think that Mason doesn’t have a strong Latino presence if you’re comparing it to other groups … I think Mason can attempt to create more of an outreach to the Latino community, more so then just having the Hispanic Student Association,” Miranda said.
Cabrera recognized that other student demographics have had organizations on campus longer than the Latino community but said the Hispanic students have started to follow suit.
“The Latino students are beginning to organize,” Cabrera said, “and that’s very, very important to have folks who can share a common experience and provide support to one another.”