Mauricio Riveros introduces the philosophy behind forming La Cumbre, a coalition of Latino organizations, at a town hall meeting Nov. 19 at the Rochester City School District Central Office. Mauricio Riveros introduces the philosophy behind forming La Cumbre, a coalition of Latino organizations, at a town hall meeting Nov. 19 at the Rochester City School District Central Office.

Unity among Latino groups urged

ROCHESTER — Anthony Plonczynski believes it is time for Latino groups in the community to join together and create an agenda that will improve quality of life for all area residents.

"We work in all these silos, and we’re all doing great work. But we never congregate and work together on a firm advocacy agenda for the community," added the associate director of the University of Rochester’s David T. Kearns Center’s pre-college programs

Plonczysnski also is a member of La Cumbre: Latinos United for Progress, whose members presented their idea to create unity among Latino groups during a town-hall-style meeting held Nov. 19 at the Rochester City School District’s central office.

La Cumbre seeks to gather community leaders and interested residents to network and brainstorm to create change in four key areas: economic development, education, arts, and culture and government relations.

The different organizations who have been involved in bringing La Cumbre to the public basically sought to develop a think tank and invite anyone interested in participating to sign up, explained City Councilwoman Jackie Ortiz.

"We want to invite them in at the early stages," she noted. "This is not, ‘This is what we’re doing’ and we’re done."

Andrea Parada, a Chili native, was ready to sign up right away, particularly with the education committee.

"We want to improve the education of Latino students … to see if we can get more of them to pursue higher education," added Parada, chairwoman of SUNY Brockport’s modern languages department and professor of Spanish. "It looks like an interesting agenda."

As volunteer director of a youth program, Gustavo Sepulveda of Rochester said that he also was drawn to La Cumbre’s focus on education.

"A lot of Hispanics in the community don’t have all the information they need or know how to get information they need for financial aid or college," he said. "They don’t know how to access the system."

In addition to joining the education subcommittee, he also is interested in La Cumbre’s government and economic committees.

But the very fact that Latinos came together to create La Cumbre and focus on those areas is a step in the right direction for the Latino community, Sepulveda added.

"It’s time," he said. "I’m excited."

Parada concurred and said that SUNY Brockport staff is interested in being a point of contact to help students get internships, which also would help the local economy.

Those are the kinds of ideas La Cumbre founders hope to stimulate, said Abraham Hernández, president of the Rochester Latino Rotary Club who was involved in the planning process.

As part of La Cumbre, community members such as Parada and Sepulveda are being sought to:

* provide assessment of the current status of various community indicators;

* set goals regarding those community indicators;

* share data with the community, various leaders and interested parties ;

* set attainable goals with influential groups and individuals in the Rochester area; and

* assess the change with the original community indicators over time.

"(This) is a historic day for the community of Rochester," Hernández said of the Nov. 19 meeting. "For us to come together like this as one, it’s a beautiful thing. So, how do we harness that power and participation … for the greater good?"

And that power stems from the continued growth of the Latino community, evident through the increasing use of Latinos in advertising, he added.

"Our economic growth is inevitable," he said.

The Selig Center for Economic Growth estimates that the purchasing power of Hispanics is estimated to grow from $489 billion in 2000 to $1.5 trillion , according to information at http://ahaa.org/default.asp?contentID=16. Hispanic advertising is worth more than $5 billion dollars, and 80 percent of social media users are Hispanic, according to the website information.

It was notifications about La Cumbre on the social-networking site Facebook that got Sepulveda’s attention initially, he said.

"It kind of piqued my interest," Sepulveda added.

Such national trends are what demonstrate the potential of La Cumbre, said Mauricio Riveros, who also has been part of the planning process that began last spring. And he hopes as many community members as possible join the effort to disprove the naysayers who already predict the failure of La Cumbre’s goals, added Riveros, vice president of project controls at the Pike Co.

"One thing I learned in life is if you have a clear vision and passion and desire, you’ll be able to make it," he noted. "We want to create a voice to educate, empower and motivate."

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information or to join La Cumbre, visit http://roclacumbre.org.

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