Student Challenges Peers to Combat Negative Views of Latinos

We were greatly inspired by the students and youth we met last month at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference. Their stories and accomplishments are a testament to the hard work and perseverance that characterize Latino communities across the country.

One of the young future leaders we met is Fernando Rojas, 2015 graduate and co-valedictorian at Fullerton Union High School in California. He recently joined a select group by being accepted to all eight Ivy League universities and decided to attend Yale. But it is his sincere feelings on the power of his generation to make change that show he has even greater goals ahead.

Fernando, the youngest of four children, saw his brothers graduate from high school and undertake postsecondary education. But he is the first to leave home for college. His parents, Raúl and María, immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, and were not able to complete secondary education, so Fernando’s accomplishment “was a success for all of us, not just for me,” he says. “It was for my family—my aunts, uncles, cousins who helped me along the way. Recognizing their struggles was the motivation I needed.”

Familia First

The importance of familia is something Fernando finds to be an important shared experience among Latinos. “There are ups and downs, struggles, and hardships, but you have that support at home—and you have the support of a larger community,” he says.

Even though Yale is a long way from Fullerton, it is the place where he felt most at home. “I knew that I was going to be leaving my family in Southern California, and I found that at Yale,” where he says he got the sense of being part of “an inclusive family.”

Combating Negative Perceptions

Rojas is interested in pursuing Latin American studies at Yale and hopes to combine that with further studies in international law. He believes students of his generation who are applying to or attending college need to take on the “challenge” to change negative perceptions about immigrants in this country.

“We’re people that want to get educated. Our parents didn’t have that opportunity but they did want us to have that opportunity,” he says. “Taking those resources and being able to make the best of it is one of the best ways to show that we are a strong community, we have a voice, and we have important things to say.”

Bringing the Credit-Invisible into the Light


The Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco nonprofit that works to expand access to financial services, savings, and investment opportunities for low-income and working-poor families. The organization was established in 2007 to combat financial exclusion in the Latino community and among other underrepresented groups, and was a co-winner of the NCLR Family Strengthening Award at this year’s NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City.

MAF has formalized the process of Lending Circles, in which a small number of people agree to lend money to each other at no interest, by having registered participants’ payments reported to the national credit bureaus. This helps people who may not otherwise have had access to get into the mainstream financial system, says Ximena Arias, Financial Services Manager at MAF.

“The CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] released a report that said that 45 million adults in the U.S. are credit-invisible in the financial system. It’s a catch-22 scenario where if you don’t have credit you can’t get access to credit,” she says.

“A credit report is like a passport to the financial marketplace,” said José Quiñonez, CEO of Mission Asset Fund, in a 2014 New York Times article. “Without that passport, you’re denied entry.”

The process can help those who have specific goals in mind, such as paying the application fee to become a citizen. That was the case for Karla Henriquez, who has experienced the process both as a participant and as the Programs Coordinator for MAF.

“I got my mom, my sister, and I to join the Lending Circles for Citizenship program where we were able to make payments of $68 for 10 months,” she says.

Other Lending Circles programs facilitated by the Mission Asset Fund can be used to save for a deposit to rent an apartment or secure fees for a temporary work permit.

Arias says the organization also offers financial counseling and education to participants, and partners with more than 40 organizations in 14 states. Those interested in finding related services in their area can visit:

Highlights from the Last Day of the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference

The final day of our 2015 NCLR Annual Conference started was capped by NCLR by the Annual President’s Message from our President and CEO, Janet Murguia. It was preceded by the last of our workshops and followed by our final town hall, which was dedicated to technology and how we can bridge the digital divide.

See highlights below from our final day.

This morning, Politico published an exclusive preview of Murguia’s speech.

The day was started with off several workshops, including some final sessions for our STEM track.

Shortly after noon, it was time for the Tuesday Luncheon, which featured the annual President’s Message.


Become an NCLR Amigo and support this great American institution!

Finally, it was time for the annual President’s Message.

After those riveting remarks, guests made their way over to the last Town Hall of the conference, dedicated to bridging the digital divide.

Thanks to everyone who attended our 2015 gathering. Don’t forget to follow @NCLR for daily updates. We’ll see you next year in Orlando!

Day Three Highlights of the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference

The eyes of the nation were on the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference today as three presidential candidates delivered remarks to our attendees. The much-anticipated speeches were given to max-capacity crowds. Below are highlights from day three of our 2015 annual gathering.

The first candidate to deliver remarks was Bernie Sanders, who gave a speech to a standing-room only crowd in a special session.

After Sanders’ speech, it was on to the Monday Luncheon where attendees were treated to a special performance by our favorite mariachi singer, Sebastien De La Cruz.

Our Vice President of Policy, Eric Rodriguez, also gave our Affiliate Award for Advocacy to to Luz Gallegos of Todec Legal Center.

Next, our guests heard from Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley.

Next, guests heard remarks from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro.

Following Secretary Castro, our attendees heard from Sprint CEO, Marcelo Claure, who shared his truly inspiring immigrant story.

While attendees waited for Hillary Clinton to arrive, they were treated to more of the musical stylings of Sebastien De La Cruz.

After some tantalizing tunes, it was time for former Secretary of State Clinton to take the stage.

Day Two Highlights of the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference

The always popular Latinas Brunch was the main event of the second day of the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference. It was followed shortly after by our Economy Town Hall, which focused on the income inequality as the great divider in America, and what needs to be done to address it. Together with several workshops and our Nation Latino Family Expo, day two proved to be as eventful and informative as our kickoff.

See highlights from day two of our 2015 gathering.

The day started with the opening of the National Latino Family Expo. There’s one more day of fun to be had, if you’ve missed Saturday or Sunday!

There were also several workshops, two of which focused on the future of STEM education and the Latino vote.

Then it was time for today’s Latinas Brunch.

Before the panel, our Title Sponsor, Toyota gave away a brand new car to one lucky Affiliate. Congratulations to Ruby Miller of CLUES Minnesota on winning!

Then it was time for our distinguished panel of Latinas.

Over at Advocacy Central, National Latino Family Expo guests continued to show us why they vote.

Our Economy Town Hall anchored our events for the day. It was a spirited discussion on how income inequality is dividing America.

Be sure to follow #NCLR15 for more updates throughout the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference!