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October 16, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
NATHROP, COLO. – Today, prominent Latino religious leaders from Colorado and California joined together to form Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance, which will develop stewards of God’s creations by engaging and educating this generation to leave a legacy for the future. This group seeks to educate other Hispanics and to encourage them to take an active role in supporting the nation’s public lands and protecting our natural resources across the West.
“Pastors can bring common-sense and spiritual guidance to the national discussion about the value of our parks and public lands, and other environmental issues affecting Latinos across the West,” said Maite Arce, president of the nonprofit Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), which helped organize the group. “Their leadership will be instrumental in sparking change that preserves our natural treasures for future generations — bringing balance and fairness to how our nation views conservation in relation to energy development.”
HAF brought the religious leaders together as part of the inaugural summit “Exploring Stewardship in Protecting and Preserving the Environment.” The summit was held in Nathrop, Colo. for three days, and included fly-fishing in Colorado’s famed Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River. The organization believes this new alliance will encourage more religious leaders to speak up for conservation, especially in communities that are on the front lines of energy development.
“We need energy development for our nation’s energy independence,” said Pastor Joseito Velasquez from Healing Waters Family Center in Denver, Colo. “But we also need to protect wildlife and other aspects of God’s creation in our public lands. We can do both.”
Pastor Velasquez was joined in the Alliance formation by Pastor Rigo Magaña from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Greeley, Colo., Pastors Frank Ruiz from Seventh Day Adventist Church in Indio, Calif., and Jesse Villarreal from Templo La Hermosa and Enrique Orellana from Fuente De Vida Christian Center in Coachella, Calif.
At the summit in Colorado, the group identified environmental issues from each home state that are of concern. In Colorado, the group would like to see Browns Canyon’s public lands and waters protected as a National Monument. Similarly, the Alliance would like National Monument designation to be granted for Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks in New Mexico. For California, the collective is paying special attention to the California Desert Protection Act, which would establish two new national monuments, enhance the existing national parks and ensure renewable energy development happens in appropriate public and private lands, and other environmental issues in the Coachella. Additionally, the alliance will explore the need for adequate funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect national parks, and enable communities to build new playgrounds and local parks.
Following the summit, the pastors will return to their communities to educate, engage and empower other religious leaders and community members in advocating for the conservation of God’s creation.
January 22, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
Do you enjoy being in the outdoors and have photos to show for it? If your answer is YES, join our 4 Stops, 1 Destination Photo Contest to win $500 worth of outdoor gear!
HAF will be accepting your contest photos until July 23rd, 2013 by 6:00pm EST. See contest rules for more information.
Link to contest album with rules:
November 25, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Hispanic Access Foundation takes action to help more Latinos get into college
With Latinos now making up nearly a quarter of the 18-and-under population in the country and projected to grow, the importance of promoting and expanding post-secondary opportunities for them has become a critical need. As part of this effort, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) has made education one of its four core priorities and will be participating in New Futuro’s College Prep Fair.
“Education is the key to building a better life. A strong foundation of learning can unlock doors to financial and personal success for Latinos,” said Maite Arce, HAF’s executive director. “Education is the critical centerpiece not only to the future of the Hispanic community but also to the country’s future.”
While Latinos aged 18 and under currently make up 23 percent of the country’s population, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that total to rise to 36 percent by 2020. As of 2010, only 13 percent of Hispanics held at least a bachelor’s degree, while 6.2 percent of full-time college students were Hispanic.
“The numbers tell us that more needs to be done to help Latinos gain access to higher-education opportunities,” said Arce. “Latinos want to go to college and parents place an extremely high value on education, but often times they lack the knowledge, resources or support to make it happen.”
Affordability is often one of the main barriers for Hispanics in attending or completing college. A Pew Research Center study found that 87 percent of Latinos identified lack of resources as a barrier to their higher education and career development.
As part of the College Prep Fair, HAF is providing workshops for parents and students on how to prepare for and finance higher education, including the use of financial aid, tax-free savings accounts and scholarships. Additionally, Arce is participating on the College Prep Fair’s panel discussion televised by Telemundo. In the exhibit hall, HAF has been providing laptop giveaways to those students who show their desire to go to college through HAF’s Facebook page.
This work has been an extension of HAF’s other work. In its tax education workshops, held throughout the county, HAF has helped parents and students get their financial documentation in order to apply for financial aid. The organization has also launched youth leadership development initiatives in Colorado.
“We need to make sure Hispanics understand how to navigate the university system,” said Arce. “They need the tools to tear down the roadblocks and continue on the college-degree path. If we don’t take action now, a vast segment of our country’s population will lack the education necessary to strengthen us as a whole.”
The next College Prep Fair, which takes place on Nov. 10 in Chicago, is one of several in a series that have taken place this fall. HAF has presented at the fairs in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Houston.
October 17, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
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.
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.”