Hispanic Access Foundation Commends Sec. Salazar for Adopting Plan to Protect Western Water

November 9, 2012 by  

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WASHINGTON – Today, the nonprofit Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) commended Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for adopting a common-sense plan to protect Colorado’s water from oil shale speculation.

“We needed a smart approach to oil shale development and Secretary Salazar deserves credit for making this a priority for Colorado, and for the state’s Latinos, which make up a significant portion of the state’s population and depend on Colorado River and water supplies for their quality of life and economic opportunity,” said Maite Arce, executive director of HAF. “Costly, water-hungry oil shale speculation would put western families’ health and safety at risk.”

A significant portion of western Latinos supports this sentiment. Released last month, a Latino Decisions poll commissioned by Nuestro Rio showed that 70 percent of those surveyed favor a plan requiring oil companies to complete successful research of oil shale technologies, and its potential impact to western water prior to commercial development on public lands.

The Salazar plan released today would require oil shale companies to conduct successful research and development projects and prove the economic and ecological viability of oil shale prior to commercial leasing.

“The Colorado River doesn’t just run through the southwest; it runs through our culture and it nourishes our lives,” said Andres Ramirez, Director at Nuestro Rio.  “Saving the Colorado River is about protecting our Latino heritage and promoting our future.”

Estimates by the Government Accountability Office have projected that full-scale oil shale development could require more than 123 billion gallons of water each year, enough water for more than 750,000 households. Additionally, the mining and processing of oil shale can leach toxic metals and pollutants, such as lead and arsenic, into rivers and groundwater. These concerns have led to other states in the region such as Arizona and Nevada, to take an active interest in the protection of their Colorado River water supplies.

In September, HAF launched an ad campaign with the message “Don’t Let Oil Shale Drain Our Water Away” to educate Latinos about the risk oil shale production could pose to water quality and quantity. For more information about oil shale and the need to protect western water, visit

Hispanic Standout: Samantha Marquez

October 31, 2012 by  

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Samantha Marquez, at just 14 years old, had six patents (international included) and was performing research at Virginia Commonwealth University and Harvard University.

Today, Samantha is one of five high school students on the US team competing at the 2012 XX International Space Olympics (ISO) in Korolev, Russia this month. In fact, on October 22, Samantha won 1st place in research, becoming the first Hispanic to win 1st place ever in the 20-year history of the ISO.

Samantha was also recently highlighted by American Scientist magazine and named one of Style Weekly’s “2012 Top 40-Under-40.”

She also became the only Hispanic inducted into the National Gallery of America’s Young Inventors in 2011. She was inducted into what is ultimately the Young Investors Hall of Fame at for her work with in bioengineering.

Samantha has developed a new process for the self-assembly of living cells in a new structure she named “Celloidosomes®.” Her work, creating 3D micro-tissues, has applications in tissue engineering, bioengineering, environmental science, genetic engineering, and cell/drug delivery as well as many other fields of science.

She has also co-authored several scientific publications, recently being published in the June 2012 journal Biomicrofluids and The Journal of Physics.

Keep in mind, Samantha Marquez is still only a 15-year-old sophomore at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, and one realizes just how impressive this young woman is.

With role models like her mother, Dr. Carolina Marun, a chemical engineer, and her father, Dr. Manuel Marquez, a chemist and researcher, Samantha is developing into a one of a kind mind, and really is a Hispanic Standout.

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Read an additional article about Samantha here.

Colorado to Washington, DC: Advocating for the Environment

October 24, 2012 by  

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The Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids took over 60 youth, including a majority of Latinos, to Colorado’s Browns Canyon in July 2012. The trip inspired many of the students to take action. In September 2012, eleven of the Denver-area high schoolers traveled to Washington, DC to meet with their elected officials, including Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, the director of the National Park Service, representatives from the Department of Interior, White House officials and others.   This video documents their journey.

The Most Valuable Gift, Naturally

October 17, 2012 by  

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By Javier Sierra

The most valuable gift we can give our children and grandchildren does not come with a price tag. Its value is so hard to calculate, we would run out of zeros to determine it.

 An entire generation offers this legacy, from the richest to the poorest. It’s called Nature (with capital n), the synonym of life, health and happiness. And all —young and old— must be aware of its vital importance.

 And that’s precisely what 60 Latino kids did this summer during a weekend at Browns Canyon, CO: explore and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the great American West.

Organized and funded by Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids, the outing included camping overnight and white-water rafting on the Arkansas River.

“It was so exciting,” says Jennie Hurrieta, a Denver high school senior who took the trip down Class 3 rapids along with several friends. “First, I was very scared, but now I’m happy that I did it. Now I love white-water rafting.”

“The trip down was my favorite moment,” says Itzel Saenz, an 18-year-old student at Red Rocks Community College in Denver. “I had never done it before. I also enjoyed how to set up a tent.”

The students and their families enjoyed this experience surrounded by amazing biodiversity and natural beauty. Being in contact with the outdoors and spending the night with only the stars as your roof sooth the spirit and cleanse the soul.

In fact, students who get in touch with nature do better in school. According to a California state survey conducted among mostly Latino students, outdoors education programs increase math and science scores by 27 percent.

Indeed, study after study confirms that outdoors experiences are particularly close to the heart of the Latino community.

According to a Colorado College conducted in Western states, 75 percent of Latinos favor the establishment of more national parks and national monuments. Also, 78 percent agreed we can build a robust economy at the same time we protect nature.

 Moreover, a national Latino poll conducted by the Sierra Club and NCLR revealed that 92 percent of us agree that protecting God’s Creation is a moral responsibility.

“We take the mountains for granted because they are always there,” says Jennie. “But we never really realize how beautiful they are until we go out there and experience it up close and personal.”

But so much beauty could not always be there. Browns Canyon is threatened on several fronts. The construction of roads and other infrastructure has increased erosion an, the bald eagle, the mountain lion and many more.d destroyed some vital areas of this ecosystem. Also, this pressure has endangered several species, such as the peregrine falcon.

This degradation is having consequences for communities close to the canyon as they are experiencing draught because of the lower levels of underground water.

“We learned a lot about water and the scarcity of it,” says Itzel. “The main priority right now is to save water. We also were told to be very careful with fires, never to start a fire near a tree.”

Browns Canyon and so many other natural wonders could disappear unless we all contribute to their preservation. The students learned that President Obama has the power to make sure this legacy will be enjoyed by future generations by designating them as national monuments.

And this month, several participants, including Jennie and Itzel, traveled to Washington, DC, and visited the White House to promote the natural treasures that belong to us all. And happily, their visit coincided with the designation of another gorgeous Colorado place, Chimney Canyon, as a national monument.

The reward is indeed priceless.

Javier Sierra writes about national Latino issues.

Concern for protecting nature spurs Catholic youths to visit Washington

October 12, 2012 by  

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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

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