This past weekend, a Voto Latino Power Summit was held at Florida International University, the first such summit in Miami for the first time. The summit had workshops and networking opportunities with different professionals in South Florida and the country.
Voto Latino is a nonpartisan organization that looks to connect with Latino Millennials across the country.
Leadership, advocacy and technology were three themes geared to get participants civically engaged in their communities
Maria Teresa Kumar is the president of Voto Latino. She says Hispanic Millennials can have incredible voting power.
“Oftentimes people say only 50 percent of Latinos voted during the last presidential election," she said at the conference. "And what I say [is] that 50 percent elected a president. Imagine if we had 67-percent participation, then we can actually start changing policy.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2011 there were 52 million Hispanics in the country. By 2020 it expects that number to rise to over 66 million. Many of those Latinos are Millennials.
Kumar says no dream is too small for these Millennials, but information is the key to achieve them.
“We are just beginning as a Latino community, but if anything, I feel orgullosa [proud],” said Kumar. “I feel like we are about to get started as a Latino community, but we have to make sure that we are informed and we are prepared.”
Isa Adney, 27, was a speaker at the conference. She is also a Hispanic Millennial.
“We have a huge impact,” she said. “There are so many of us. We are engaged and empowered because there are young people, like Mark Zuckerberg, who are top innovators.”
Adney also says the Internet makes Millennials powerful. Thanks to online resources she was able to start her own business and publish a book on college success.
Kumar shares this idea with Adney. She says South Florida Millennials are entrepreneurs and incredibly savvy.
Jonathan Thole, 28, found out about the summit through social media — something Millennials are known for using 24-seven. Six months ago, Thole started his own graphic design company.
“If I can create my job and eventually hire my own employees either Latino or minorities, I can help the community,” he said.
Getting Millennials politically involved is a main priority for Voto Latino. Daniel Muelieri, 25, lives in Broward County and works for the county’s Democratic Hispanic Caucus.
He wants Hispanics to become political leaders and work on immigration issues.
“They need to know that we are not just there to look pretty and speak Spanish,” Mulieri said. “We are there to effect change and make sure they understand what we want to happen for all of our community.”
Mulieri says that if Latino Millennials start getting involved now, they will have a bigger voice and more of an impact in the future.