For me, philanthropy is very personal.

By Arnoldo Avalos, LCF Trustee

I am grateful for my teachers, little league baseball coaches, and for the after school tutors who spent those extra few minutes to help me with difficult math problems.  I was one of seven siblings in a migrant worker family and many generous people took the time to invest in me. My parents sacrificed everything to ensure that I grew into a mature, responsible adult who would make them proud.  I often reflect about all the precious time that people gave to help me develop into the person that I am today. These teachers, mentors, co-workers took a vested interest in my life and they changed me forever. It is now my time to pay it forward.

Just this month, my wife, Alma Ruth and I launched the Avalos Foundation, a 501(c)(3) private, family foundation with a mission to provide financial support for students who lack the resources to succeed. Education has been the greatest equalizer in our lives. My wife is an elementary school teacher who is passionate about giving kids the tools they need to succeed. I was born in Mexico, but the United States gave us many opportunities to create a better future for ourselves and our families. We want to ensure that young Latino students have the support that they need to do the same.

The Avalos Foundation will be funding 10 scholarships per year, with the potential for annual renewal to reach a goal of funding 40 students every year. 

We chose to focus our work on the upper Sacramento Valley region because that is where I grew up. Unfortunately, this region of California has very high unemployment rates and a median income of $20,000, compared to the National poverty level of $23,000.  The high dropout rates are simply unacceptable.  For example, in Tehama County 67% of high school students dropped out in 2009, and only 15% of residents have a bachelor’s degree. We must do more to help our students believe in a better future.

Given the dire need in the upper Sacramento Counties and because I am a product of this region, The Avalos Foundation will provide college scholarships to community college and high school students from Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Colusa, Yuba, and Sutter Counties as well the City of Pleasanton who are accepted and attend one of the University of California campuses. The scholarships will be awarded to students who demonstrate high academic achievement, dedication to community service, and financial need. 

You can like us on Facebook at http://avalosfoundation.org/Home_Page.html or visit our Foundation website at https://www.facebook.com/AvalosFoundation .  You can also help us spread the word, to ensure that we are reaching the targeted scholars. 

I wish you and your family a Happy Holiday season and I hope that you find the time to give back. There are many ways to pay it forward. You can volunteer at an after school program, donate your professional expertise by serving on a board, and you can also write a check to a cause that is close to your heart. I want to inspire a culture of giving for and by the Latino community.  I know that if we come together, we can make a difference.

We did it

by Raquel Donoso

This November Latinos went out to vote in record numbers. Latinos represented 10 percent of the U.S. voting electorate, double what it was in 1996. The numbers rose to more than 12 million, up from 11.4 million Latinos that voted in the last election.

What the country saw this month is that the United States electorate is beginning to mirror the immense diversity of the country-not just with regards to race/ethnicity but also in terms of age, gender, and sexual orientation. The United States is at an exciting and critical time. By 2050, the Hispanic population is expected to nearly double, accounting for as much as 29 percent of the total population. Each month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and are eligible to vote.

What does this mean moving forward?  What does it mean for California?

California has already begun to experience the national demographic shifts. For the past decade Latinos, because of the growing numbers, have become critical contributors to winning margins of victory.

Latinos will continue to make an important impact in the voting booth.  The question then becomes how will this translate into policy changes to improve economic and education outcomes for Latino families in this state?

After the election there have been countless articles and discussions about what the President will do on immigration reform given that it is an important issue for Latino voters.

Yes, it is an important issue for the Latino community and one that rightfully should, and I predict will, be an important element of President Obama’s second term.

Yet, in every poll and interview done with Latino residents immigration is not the only issue discussed.  The Latino vote cannot be distilled into one issue.  Latino voters care about education, the economy, health care, the deficit, and the gap between rich and poor.

In California we need to focus on rebuilding our public education system to once again be the envy of the nation, to ensuring all our children have access to 21st century learning tools, to increasing economic security for working families that make too little to attain the American Dream.

It is possible.

We are not called upon to be civically engaged every two or four years. Every day LCF works with organizations that are transforming communities and empowering Latino parents and families to speak up, to make their voices heard. In Sacramento, on local school boards, elected officials need to hear from their constituents – they need to know what the community wants and to be held accountable for their actions.

This is the vision for the future of California, what is possible when people come together for the good of communities to shape their future.

In 2013, LCF will be hosting its first statewide conference in Sacramento. After decades of investing in communities it is time for us all to come together – community leaders, elected and appointed officials, the business community, and philanthropists – and forge a path to prosperity in this state.  Identify the issues where a critical mass can have an impact, raise up the stories and voices of those struggling, and invest in the future of California. Please stay tuned for more information on our upcoming conference.