This past week, I received one of the greatest honors since I started Latino Branding Power just over two years ago. On Monday, March 25, at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet, I received the award for Hispanic Business of the Year in recognition for efforts with Latino Branding Power. It was an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers, the West Michigan Latino business community, and the many people who have supported me over the years.
This past year, the Pew Hispanic Center released results from the U.S. Census Bureau that found Latino college student populations meeting a number of milestones in 2011:
- The number of Latinos enrolled in college exceeded 2 million
- Latinos made up 16.5% of all college enrollments
- Latinos made up 25.2% of student enrolled in two-year colleges
- For the first time, Latinos were the nation’s largest minority among four-year college and university students
These milestones reflect a continuing upward trend now seen by many college admissions departments. Should this be a wakeup call for college administrators? One university in rural northwestern Michigan decided to answer the call.
Last month I wrote a post about a new human centered design initiative from the Keller Futures Center for improving resilience among Latino youth. Interesting enough, about the time we were completing the project, an article appeared in The Rapidian (a local Grand Rapids online news and information source) about the Grand Rapids Latino student achievement gap. Unfortunately, the statistics look bleak. According to the article post, Grand Rapids students in the eleventh grade are scoring at 18% proficiency in math and 32% in reading compared to statewide scores of 52% in math and 63% in reading. What are causes of these educational gaps and what can be done to close them?
Since last month, I have been involved in a new initiative that uses human centered design to solve issues within Latino communities. The Keller Futures Center, an innovative program through the Grand Rapids Community College, facilitates project-based initiatives to help solve unmet and emerging needs in West Michigan communities. Previous research determined that resiliency is a key ingredient in the success of Latino youth – specifically within education. Existing as a community coalition representing education, business, non-profits, philanthropy, parents, and students, the Latino Resiliency Project will innovate for seven weeks on the topic of what drives resiliency in our youth and determine how resiliency has a positive impact on the educational achievement and overall life conditions for Latino youth.
This time of the year is always exciting for me. Being the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, there are many activities and an increased sense of pride among Latino communities. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we celebrate with two major festivals dedicated to Hispanic interests. The first full weekend of September is the Fiesta Hispana, a celebration of the wide variety of Latin American nations. The second festival, Fiesta Mexicana, coincides with Mexican Independence Day and is a celebration acknowledging the largest group of Latinos in West Michigan, the Mexican Americans. Because I was involved for several years in the planning of Fiesta Mexicana, I am occasionally asked, “Why are there two Hispanic festivals in Grand Rapids?” or “When are they going to combine both festivals into one?” Although I am not overly surprised when this question arises, I believe it does indicate a larger misinterpretation among some about how Latino communities exist and perceive themselves.
I recently had the honor to be interviewed by the Columbus, Georgia marketing firm Nao Media & Consulting. Nao Media is the brainchild of Chris Craft and works in the fields of music, sports, and information technology. We spoke about inspirations from my journeys to Mexico and Puerto Rico, the development of Latino Branding Power, and future plans with Hispanic marketing. With permission, I have re-posted the Q&A session with Nao Media consultant Yu Miyagawa.
A recent Census discovery made some internet buzz a few weeks ago. An article in the Patriot News of central Pennsylvania reported that the Hispanic population of Lancaster County has surpassed that of the Amish. The county is traditionally known as “Amish Country” by locals. Statistics from the 2010 Census show that 45,000 Latinos live in Lancaster County compared to 30,000 Amish residents as estimated by Elizabethtown College. This is a 35% increase in the county’s Latino population over the last decade. The ever relevant Latino news blog NewsTaco.com picked up the story as well and suggested a reason for the increase in Hispanic populations of this region is related to a tolerance for people with different lifestyles, like the Amish. Amish populations have had a steep tradition of modest, faith-based living for generations and abstain from modern conveniences and materialism.
The news has inspired me to consider this question: What do the Amish and Latino populations have in common? Here are a couple thoughts to consider and implications of what these can mean for outreach and marketing to Hispanic populations.