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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Community Matters

Angel A. Amy Moreno

In order to better get across the strengths of knowledge, solidarity and leadership, the Mauricio Gaston Institute has created and held for four years the Latino Public Policy Conference. The most recent, held Oct. 19th focused on three policies: the education of Latino children, the status of Latino immigrants and the economic development of the Latino community.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to take actions on issues that affect them,” outreach coordinate for the Gaston Institute Gissell Abreu said. “It’s about the effort put in by the community, and this conference is a community effort.”

The keynote speaker at the conference was Jaime Contreras, chair of the National Capital Immigration Coalition. Town hall meetings held concentrated on K-12 education, trends in immigration policy and the local-level impact of the policies and the economic development of the Latino community.

Latino elected officials also spoke, discussing the three policies, the priorities of the three and ways that members of the community can assist in the development of these areas.

The conference reached state-wide and brought together Latinos from all over Massachusetts, creating networking opportunities and allowing those in the community to find ways to become more active.

“State-wide perspective is being shared and common agendas are created,” Jeffrey Sanchez, state representative from Boston, said. “It’s a good cause because it’s bringing people together on issues and galvanizes thoughts. People are doing things day-to-day, and this conference is helping to unify those efforts annually.”

Former and current members of the Gaston Institute’s Latino Leadership Opportunity Program (LLOP) assisted in setting up this year’s conference, with their passion and drive to support their community clearly showing.

“To me, the conference is a medium to link the community to organizations and to track back to community development,” 2006 UMass Boston graduate Maria Moreno said. “It shows how community changes are emerging and the actions to take to create more change.”

LLOP opens up new doors to Latino students in terms of engaging in leadership.

“We have to write a research project assisted by mentors who help us the entire semester,” Brisna Rodas, a senior and student of sociology, said. “We take seminars, special classes and present the projects at the end of the semester. The LLOP students then go to IUPLR [Inter-University Program for Latino Research] in Washington, D.C., and meet other students and show our work. We also get to meet other professors and attend legislative meetings to find out how the policies are created.”

Once LLOP runs its course, research projects are done and the meetings are over, the students receive certifications.

“A lot of alumni help with the conferences such as the Latino Public Policy conference,” Rodas said. “After my certification, I got at job at Gaston and became student coordinator for this conference.”

Just as it has shown initiative in progressing the community, the conference and the LLOP have proven themselves to impact students looking to work in the community as well.

“I was already helping the community before I joined LLOP, but I joined because I knew it could show me new things,” Rodas said. “It’s strengthened my skills and helped me make connections. Participating has opened so many doors, and I think it’s one of the best things Latino students at UMass Boston can do to help their futures.”