Hispanic youths gather tackle variety of issues
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 20, 2004 12:00 AM
Yvonne Wingett

DOWNTOWN - The Latino voice is powerful, but the question Friday was, how can Arizona's youths make it stronger and louder?

About 800 Valley Hispanic leaders and students gathered at Phoenix Civic Plaza for the Latino Institute to celebrate their past and to plan to make their voices heard in the future.

Through workshops and panels, participants discussed issues facing the Latino community: poor voter turnout, immigration, domestic violence, financial planning and education.

"It's advantageous for the youth," said Daniel Rodriguez, 17, a senior at Trevor Browne High School who won a $1,500 scholarship through the Latino Institute to attend a university. "We learn about stuff that we won't get in school. Kids come here and get to know who represents them."

Henry Cisneros, Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Clinton administration and a former mayor of San Antonio, delivered the keynote speech.

The "Making the Connection" conference focused on what Cisneros called "Hispanization," the growing Latino community and its influence on America's cultural, political and economic scenes.

"I think we stand on the edge of being politically powerful," said Cisneros, who received two standing ovations from the crowd of politicians, students and business owners. That means "being about to control the resources and power and the ability to control outcomes."

The institute was born at a conference of the National Recreation and Parks Congress four years ago; other parks and recreation departments in other states formed their own institutes built on the first successful conference, including Phoenix.

"We have this big influx of people coming in, and we're asking ourselves, how are we preparing as organizations to deal with the changing demographic, from the private sector, the non-profit sector and the public sector?" said Albert Santanta, co-chairman of the institute.

Mario Miranda, 15, said he was encouraged by Cisneros' speech and the workshops.

"We're going to be the good, new America," said Miranda, a sophomore at North High School. "Not the bad, like some people think."

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