In 2001, Dr. Jose Enriquez, Founder and CEO of Latinos in Action, was a young high school ESL and Spanish teacher at Timpview High School in Provo, UT. As he taught, he observed a number of Latino students that weren’t engaged in their own education, many of whom were going to college in very low numbers. He asked the school if he could start a Spanish class for native Spanish speakers to try to connect Latinos to their culture and help them invest in their own educations. In the class, he began teaching the students about historical Latino heroes. While teaching that class he came to the realization that he could teach the students about heroes or the students could create their own heroes.
It was then that the seed for Latinos in Action (LIA) was planted. Through the years, the program grew to more schools as it evolved into the service-learning, leadership program it is today, one that helps students become heroes in their own communities through the acquisition of skills, abilities, and, most importantly, confidence. With these tools, an emphasis was also placed on maintaining the students’ cultural connections. From those first classes the program continued to grow as more teachers, principles, and superintendents saw the change that was happening in the lives of the students and their academic achievement. A pivotal moment in the growth of the program came in 2010 when LIA became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Today, Latinos in Action is a national movement, with the program implemented in over two hundred schools in twelve states, serving nearly nine thousand students. That reach is doubled as each student in the LIA classes visits a local elementary school at least twice a week to mentor and serve as a role model for younger students through the tutoring program. LIA students, then, become heroes for their younger peers, filling the need Dr. Enriquez saw early on by creating local heroes in the Latino community.
Latinos In Action is guided by our mission: Empowering Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities. Passionate teachers serve as role models and mentors to the students in their classes as they implement the LIA curriculum that stems from LIA’s four essentials: community service, leadership, academic excellence, and development of personal assets. In short, Latinos In Action is in the business of building leaders, armed with learning, skills, and a commitment to community service that will help them be successful.
In addition to the classroom experience and the tutoring program, LIA hosts one-day Youth Leadership conferences, four-day Boot Camp Leadership conferences for LIA class leaders, and Educator Institutes for our teachers. These conferences are held at major universities in Utah, Florida, and Connecticut. The goal of the conferences is to allow each person the best opportunity to succeed: Teachers, LIA staff, college students, and students enrolled in the LIA classes. We operate under the believe that we are all better when we work together.
At the Youth Leadership Conference, attended by over 7,000 students in Utah and Florida, students are instructed and inspired by workshop presenters, a keynote speaker, and college student volunteers who help run the conferences. The four-day Boot Camp Leadership Conference brings together leadership teams from LIA classes for intensive leadership training. College students serve as counselors for the Boot Camp and also present the workshops to teach their younger peers. The Educator Institute gives LIA teachers the chance to learn from each other, LIA staff, and invited experts as they share best practices and gain insight for how to best serve the students in their classes.
Latinos In Action is fortunate to partner with individuals, companies, and organizations who make generous contributions of time, talent, and funds that help make the program possible. As our numbers grow, our need for partnership grows. Those interested in partnering with LIA are welcome to learn more about the program at our website and are invited to reach out to Burton Rojas at [email protected].