Meet the People on the Front Lines

Today I literally spent the afternoon at Northern Kentucky University visiting with their Office of Latino Student Affairs. What a wonderful group of individuals – really an understatement for all they do to serve the Hispanic students at NKU. While I was able to share my background and a little about my company, I learned much more from the students and staff than they did from me. After my informal presentation, I enjoyed an hour of  sharing ideas and perspectives with Hispanic students from Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States. Although there are only 200 Hispanic students at the NKU campus, Leo Calderon, the center’s director, is passionate about serving the needs of his students. He actually knew each student by their first name! Along with his assistant, Diane Maldonado, they make an excellent team and the students are certainly fortunate to have such committed individuals supporting them.

Next month, the Office of Latino Affairs is hosting the first annual conference of ELKF (Educating Latinos for Kentucky’s Future) on February 11-12. They’ll be holding a college fair along with a conference featuring Rosa Rosales, LULAC National President, and Richard Fry, Senior Research Associate at the PEW Hispanic Center.  I’m a big fan of Mr. Fry whose work I used extensively in my doctoral dissertation. More information about the conference can be found at the ELKF website. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges facing Hispanics in Kentucky (and in the South for that matter) to attend. It will be worth your time.

I was able to spend about an hour with Mr. Calderon in his office and was inspired to do more – particularly when it comes to helping those without a voice regarding education and career opportunities. Mr. Calderon is an example of what we Hispanics describe as “ganas” – motivation, passion, determination, and commitment. Mr. Calderon serves those that most need it – he truly defines what it means to be on the front lines. While it is easy to write about the challenges faced by Hispanic college students, it’s quite another thing seeing it first hand. I’m always inspired by those that look beyond the challenges and focus on the opportunities. The students I met today certainly demonstrate that I have so much more to learn and understand about the experiences of Hispanics in higher education.