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October 12, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
By Chelsea Weikart Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — As 19-year-old Annalisa Martinez put it, “It’s our job to be leaders.”
She made the comment after she and a group of her peers from a Catholic parish in Denver met with Colorado’s U.S. senators on Capitol Hill for an environmental cause: urging federal protection for Browns Canyon in Colorado.
Ranging in age from 12 to 19, the Latino youths from Denver’s St. Cajetan Parish and an organization called Environmental Learning for Kids were brought together by the Washington-based Hispanic Access Foundation.
Maite Arce, executive director of the foundation, founded the nonprofit after growing up as the child of Mexican immigrants who had trouble accessing information and resources in their new country.
The foundation has partnerships with mostly faith-based community groups, such as St. Cajetan, to organize events and programs that inform Hispanics about education, voting, the environment and other issues, as well as to promote responsible citizenship and community involvement.
St. Cajetan is one of the oldest Hispanic Catholic parishes in the Denver Archdiocese.
Over a three-day visit in Washington in mid-September, the youths’ schedule included a meeting with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, to express their concern for Browns Canyon and to promote scholarships for Hispanic students.
The canyon, southwest of the Denver metro area, is a popular place for hiking, camping, viewing wildlife, fishing and white-water rafting. Udall has proposed that Congress designate it as national monument or wildlife preserve.
It’s a place the youths and many others have grown to love, they said. Last year, the Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids sponsored a fishing education day there; 250 families participated in the trip, the first of its kind for many in the group. This past summer, 68 youths and their parents went on a camping trip to the canyon.
Udall has said giving a special designation to Browns Canyon would bring jobs to the state and put the area “on the map” and attract visitors. It also needs protection, advocates say, because illegal roads in the area have led “to erosion and habitat destruction.”
Linda Sosa, a spokeswoman for St. Cajetan, said considers herself a second mother to the seven 12- to 19-year-old girls she brought to Washington.
Hispanic immigrants to the United States “don’t know the systems. I don’t want that for these kids,” she said, adding that the Catholic Church has a role in educating Hispanics about how government works. “The church is more than prayer, we can be the voices outside the church.”
Sosa has taught catechism classes for 30 years at St. Cajetan, which was established in 1922. Her involvement has given her a connection to parish youths.
All but two of the St. Cajetan girls were on their first trip to Washington. Speaking a mix of English and Spanish throughout the day, several of them mentioned to a Catholic News Service reporter they were “missing the mountains.” Money for their trip came from a combination of fundraisers, parish donations and matching funds from the Hispanic Access Foundation.
The summer camping trip to Browns Canyon gave them a chance to see wildlife and to go white-water rafting on the Arkansas River — and it sparked the youths’ interest in protecting the canyon. They began asking Sosa what they could do, which led to her teaming up with the foundation and coordinating the trip and a chance to talk to Udall and Bennet.
Arce told CNS that the group’s interest in the outdoors and the environment is reflected in a 2012 survey on Latinos and the environment, conducted by the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza. Nine in 10 respondents said people “have moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation on this earth — the wilderness, and forests, the oceans, lakes and rivers.”
During a picnic lunch in Lafayette Park across from the White House, where they headed later that afternoon to talk to staffers, Annalisa Martinez told CNS that Udall and Bennet “were very involved in hearing what we had to say.”
The oldest in the group, she is finishing an associate’s degree in early childhood education.
Her niece, 12 year-old Anastasia Martinez was the youngest. She’d like to become a geologist or horse trainer.
“My mother and I grew up in those mountains,” she said. “If they were destroyed it would break our hearts.”
Jennie Hurrieta, 17, told CNS the group had a lot of support from St. Cajetan Parish, especially from its pastor, Theatine Father Tomas Fraile.
“Father Tomas was very supportive, he baptized all of us, he really wants us to succeed,” she said, adding that the priest encourages them to be leaders in their community and their church. “This world isn’t ours, it’s God’s, we are preserving it for future generations,” she added.
“Linda Sosa and the students are doing a wonderful job going to D.C. and talking to senators,” Father Fraile told CNS later in a telephone interview. “If we Christians and Catholics believe in God, we have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s children the same way we have the responsibility of taking care of the whole of God’s creation.”
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
October 3, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
By Catharine M. Hamm, Los Angeles Times Travel editor
Cesar E. Chavez, the son of migrant laborers whose nonviolent struggle for farm laborers’ rights won him comparisons to Gandhi, will be commemorated with a new national monument in Keene, Calif.
President Obama is expected to travel to Keene on Oct. 8 to formally establish the monument, the 398th park unit in the U.S. (A national park generally has “outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena,” according to the National Park Service website. “National monuments, on the other hand … contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest.”)
The Chavez monument will be at a site known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), in the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains. It was here that the United Farm Workers of America was founded in the 1970s, an organization in which Chavez played a pivotal part. Chavez and his family also lived here until his death in 1993. He is buried here and the new monument will include his gravesite.
As a labor activist, Chavez helped farm workers achieve wage increases and better working conditions. He believed in nonviolence and often fasted to accentuate his points. A water-only fast in 1988 was said to have damaged his health.
In the Los Angeles Times obituary for Chavez, state Sen. Art Torres said: “He was our Gandhi. He was our Dr. Martin Luther King.”
In the obituary, then-President Clinton said, “The labor movement and all Americans have lost a great leader with the death of Cesar Chavez. An inspiring fighter for the cause to which he dedicated his life, Cesar Chavez was an authentic hero to millions of people throughout the world.”
September 28, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Eleven Latino high schoolers and six parents from Denver visited the District of Columbia to encourage their elected officials to protect Browns Canyon by providing it with monument status and to preserve other Colorado outdoor locations. The students also met with White House staff, representatives from the Department of Interior and the director of the National Parks Service.
“These kids are vocal champions for the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, executive director for Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). “They are eager to make a difference for Browns Canyon – they are inspired to fight for its protection so that other young people will be able to enjoy it in the future.”
The students met with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is spearheading the effort to afford permanent protection for Browns Canyon, and Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO), who successfully led the charge to designate Colorado’s Chimney Rock as a national monument.
“These Latino youth learned the power of their voice when they participate in public policy,” said Linda Sosa, an educator with St. Cajetan Catholic Church. “Browns Canyon and other public spaces have become a passion for these kids. They want to see other generations enjoy what they’ve been able to experience.”
The participants of the visit, which was arranged by HAF, included eight students from St. Cajetan Catholic Church and three from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK). In July, these same students attended a weekend rafting trip in Browns Canyon organized by HAF and ELK, which helped to teach leadership skills and develop these youth as environmental stewards.
Browns Canyon has become a popular destination, but the area has been degraded by illegal roads leading to erosion and habitat destruction in one of the country’s last remaining unprotected wilderness areas. In the 2012 Colorado College Western States Survey, Latino voters expressed stronger pro-conservation views than their Anglo-counterparts. For example, 75 percent said they would support the creation of new parks and monuments in their states.
The voices of the students were also heard by key presidential advisors including Nancy Sutley, chair of the President’s Council for Environmental Quality, John Jarvis, director of the National Parks Service and representatives for Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“This has been a dream of ours – to be able to go to Washington and build the skills, confidence and knowledge of our church’s youth,” said Sosa. “They know they can achieve their dreams by having access to our nation’s leaders, and becoming leaders themselves in fighting for what they believe in.”
Source: Hola Arkansas
September 17, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Letter from the Executive Director from 2011 HAF Annual Report
2011 marked the first full-year for Hispanic access Foundation and we have truly been blessed by all of those that have supported us in one-way or another.
Hundreds of leaders in our faith-based and community network took up the torch in transforming information into action. Partners like H&R Block and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the importance of grassroots outreach into Hispanic communities. Thousands of Latino families throughout the country embraced our organization, took advantage of the information in our campaigns and took action to improve their futures.
The bridges that we are building are changing lives.
As you read through this annual Report, it should become apparent that what HAF does in reaching the Hispanic community is unlike any other organization. We’ve developed extensive, trust-filled relationships with Latino churches that provide the access to connect with the community at their level. We’ve gained immediate confidence from large corporations and government branches. We’ve mobilized thousands of individuals through our grassroots outreach. We’ve built community bridges and placed many individuals on the path to a better life.
Our message of responsible citizenship, educational attainment, and active engagement in the improvement of the health, environment, and financial well-being of Latino families is resonating at all levels throughout the United States. and it needs to.
By 2050, the Hispanic population is projected to make up 30 percent of the entire U.S. population. The work that we do now is critical to the long-term prospects of this country as a whole. Hispanics need to understand the U.S. tax system and become responsible taxpayers. Latinos need to become advocates of their health and understand the importance of preventative care. Hispanics need to receive a quality education and gain equal access to higher education opportunities.
But, it’s not just about need. It’s about the future of america and making sure we’re all in position to maximize the potential before us.
Read the complete version of the 2011 Hispanic Access Foundation Annual Report
September 5, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
WASHINGTON – Nestled in the Rocky Mountains along the Arkansas River, Browns Canyon is a slice of natural beauty featuring critical habitat for wildlife, unrivaled whitewater rafting and an amazing outdoor experience. This scenic landscape is what attracted more than 60 Hispanic youth from Denver to spend a July weekend whitewater rafting and camping for the first time.
Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), in partnership with the Denver-based Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), have been working to expose more Hispanics to the natural wonder of Browns Canyon and emphasize through experience the importance of preserving it for future generations.
“One trip down Class II and III class rapids in Browns Canyon, and now these kids are vocal champions for the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, executive director of HAF. “Some of us had never been rafting before, but we were all inspired to return. Better yet, we were inspired to fight to protect this place so that young people could always enjoy it.”
Browns Canyon has been a central focus for many recreationists, business leaders and conservationists in Colorado. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is leading a local effort to ensure permanent protection for Browns Canyon via congressional legislation. Working with Senator Udall and Congress, President Barack Obama could protect Browns Canyon so that the river, its native wildlife, and the experiences of visitors are preserved for future generations.
“The rafting trip was just the beginning of the journey for these young people,” said Stacie Gilmore, executive director of ELK. “For many of them, this was their first real outdoor experience. And it made such an impact that their concern for protecting our natural wonders has grown exponentially.”
The young people in the group are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., and are hoping to visit with Senator Udall to thank him for his efforts, White House staff and Secretary Ken Salazar at the U.S. Department of Interior to encourage policy-makers and the public to join them in championing the protection of Browns Canyon, and all of our parks, rivers and national monuments.
“These young people are eager to make a difference for Browns Canyon,” Arce added, “whether it takes an act of Congress or a stroke of a pen in the White House.” For more information or to learn how to become more involved, please visit www.hispanicaccess.org and www.elkkids.org.