Achieving Full Potential -Our Latino high school students NEED our mentoring

I have a friend named Jackie Martinez who works at Facebook. This morning she posted about a phone call she had yesterday with a mentee. After reading her story twice, I felt compelled to blog the response I want to leave to her.

Her post is here.

“…she (the mentor) spoke about the challenges she faced coming from a single-parent household as a first generation college student, with four siblings, unsure of how to navigate, as well as how to afford the ambiguous and costly road ahead of her. Restless and anxious, it seemed as though factors such as accessibility and affordability had overcome a bright, talented and curious students’ capacity to understand all that she had to offer as well as all that she had yet to become. The road ahead would be difficult, but I assured her that together, we’d turn challenges into opportunities.”

Jackie continued with the story of how her driver reacted to hearing the conversation, he himself a college dropout who tried but was overcome by the process and expense.

Here’s the resource-rich comment I would’ve left had I not decided to blog instead:

Jackie, I have a million things to say on this topic since I am regularly in front of students as you described here.

For now I will first say the importance of mentoring is on display right here. 🙂 Thanks for all you do.

These young people CANNOT do this by themselves. There is simply too much to know that they don’t know. The driver’s devastating story is testiment to this fact.

RESOURCE: – the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington DC maintains a huge database of scholarships, internships, fellowships ranging from bachelor’s degrees to doctoral degrees. It’s a curated list of scholarships that Latino students can apply for including many scholarships that all students can apply for, and Latinos should definitely apply for many scholarships. FREE resource. EVERY Latino in middle school should be given this link and encouraged to begin scoping out scholarships right now.

Yes, there is a plethora of PRIVATE money for students who are undocumented. Why do they still not know this? Because nobody told them or they were discouraged from even pursuing higher education because of their immigration status.

In addition, private universities, the really expensive ones that Latinos rarely apply to because I think it’s too expensive? Well, they’ve got billions of dollars in endowment funds available that can be used to attract and retain brilliant students not born into wealth. But students MUST first be encouraged by US to apply.

RESOURCE: Did you know that if you apply to Harvard and get in on your own merits, and your parents make less than $85,000 a year, you will attend Harvard tuition free? Stanford if your parents make less than $125,000? I’ve heard it said that Stanford even provides no/low-cost housing to this group of students.

Why don’t our brilliant students know this? Answer is lack of guidance and implicit bias.

Implicit bias manifests itself through the high school counselor who tells the student to apply to the local community college so they can live at home and “help” their poor family. When you look at National Education statistics and realize that only one out of 17 Latino students who starts at Community College ever graduates with a four-year degree, you’ll realize they being DOOMED with these LOW expectations. Our students and their families must be preparing to apply for a ton of scholarships, take the money, and truly move out and become SCHOLARS. That should be the goal. That is how Chinese families do it.

Implicit bias shows up when that counselor denies our students information about ELITE universities and the private money that will pay for those pathways. There are of course exceptions to what I’m saying, but this bias is real.

Por eso estamos donde estamos.

STILL only less than 15% of Latino adults in this country have a four-year degree. 15% of Latino adults, ladies and gentlemen!!

This implicit bias has been in place for GENERATIONS!

So it’s up to us to MENTOR our young people and guide them not only through the application process but also to secure funding for the ENTIRE higher education journey. We must guide them ALL THE WAY THROUGH until they have that college diploma in hand. It really is on all of US who have completed the journey to reach back, help and ensure MANY other young people complete it.

I wrote a blog post on this topic a few years ago and included some pretty shocking numbers and a checklist of action you can take to help fill in this gap. Please read it. Please share it. It’s here.

The Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge

RESOURCE: I earned my bachelor degree at UC Berkeley as a first-gen college student, funded by the United States Air Force- a 4-year Air Force ROTC scholarship that paid ALL my out-of-state tuition and fees and provided a stipend as well. When I completed my degree, I owed simply four years of service to the U.S. Air Force. When I was selected to fly however, I happily extended my commitment a few more years and ultimately served over 9 years. I suggest you all spread the word about ROTC scholarships to eligible students. With the ROTC scholarship, you earn your EDUCATION FIRST; do your military service SECOND as as an OFFICER!

This path is the opposite of enlisting after high school which too many of our students do because NOBODY mentioned ROTC scholarships to them! So I’ll repeat myself over and over. I applied to Berkeley. I applied for the 4-year ROTC scholarship in the US Air Force. I took the money and moved a thousand miles away from my family in Colorado to really focus on becoming a scholar. I highly, highly recommend to high school students that they do the same, forget this sticking around the family working trying to help out. That’s just BS advice that KEEPS LATINOS DOWN. That is not focusing on achieving a new level of education and economic empowerment. Remember: 1 of 17 Latino students who start at Community College ever finish a four-year degree. You might as well not bother.

RESOURCE: While I was on active duty, my graduate degree in international business management was 85% funded by the American Association of University women. Go there now. What a VERY WELL FUNDED organization that only exists to help women attain their educational credentials.

Two degrees – my total debt was $6000.

RESOURCES: Oh, and I just took my teen daughters to an “Expanding your Horizons” Math and Science careers conference two weekends ago at Berkeley. We met six doctoral students, all women, all pursuing degrees in microbiology, mechanical engineering, virology, other engineering disciplines. ALL stressed that their ENTIRE higher education journey has been paid for, complete with stipends, because they’re pursuing the much-needed Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines. They’ll graduate with Ph.Ds and NO DEBT.

This myth that attaining higher education means going into massive debt is exactly that it is: a myth. This is especially true for our community of brilliant students who universities across this nation are desperate to find. Help them – especially the private schools!

We cannot continue to tolerate the loss of potential and the perpetual cycle of poverty because our brilliant students with their BRILLIANT minds were not connected with information and funding sources that would have turned their lives and their DESCENDANTS’ lives, into a completely different, economically-ADVANTAGED situation in just one generation.

It’s on US to help. Each one, reach one (or 20!)

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Latinas Think Big Event at Google Los Angeles

At Google’s Los Angeles office on a recent Friday night, the presentation room was filled with highly educated, professional, innovative, entrepreneurial and activist Latinas in charge. There were bloggers, journalists, community leaders, professors, business owners, engineers — all gathered to participate in a unique Latina leadership event, one of the very first times a Fortune 100 corporation has ever hosted such an event.

The ELLA Leadership Institute west coast stop of the “Latinas Think Big” tour, was streamed live on Google Hangout on Air, broadcast to many virtual viewing parties around the nation and to individuals watching the event online. The event kicked off and along with nine other Twitter ambassadors and all participating around the nation, we got busy communicating the key moments and thoughts coming from the stage. When it was over four hours later, there were over seven million Twitter impressions — SEVEN MILLION!

If anyone doubts the commonly reported finding that Latinas are the fastest growing demographic using social media technology, this event and these numbers should put those doubts to rest. [Read the rest in the Huffington Post here]

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Mentoring Latinas is a Successful Program to Emulate Nationally

I’m proud to share this article contributed to Fox News Latino to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this effective, culturally-relevant REAL mentoring program. I had the pleasure of meeting its visionary founder in New York last summer. Please read this piece, contact Dr. Silber for the complimentary handbook and push to start a Mentoring Latinas program in your community to link middle school-aged Latinas with Latinas in college. It works!mentors and staff at holiday party

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Latina Sisterhood in Silicon Valley-When Social Media Meets Real Life

One woman drove nine hours to get there; others cleared their typically crazy afternoon calendars to make the meetup and still others arrived just long enough at the end to exchange hugs with friends previously only known in a Facebook group. What was the occasion? The ELLA Institute – Latina Leadership Network Bay Area west coast launch, just ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area visit of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In town to launch her now NYT Bestselling book My Beloved World, her presence bonded many Latinas together for an evening of networking, laughter and joy.

Hilda Ramirez kicks off the #LLNBayArea meetup

Consultants, business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs, students, engineers –Latinas wearing these identities and more, many of whom had only met in the Latina Leadership Network group born last August, suddenly recognized a name on a nametag and abrazos followed.



something more with which to remember this evening


My personal highlight was meeting Pam Campos, a fellow Latina in the military, and her boyfriend who made the trek down from Oregon. I had the joyous moment of recognizing her effort to join us by providing her a personalized copy of my book.


Ana Uribe Ruiz of New York Life, who joined our firm Gracefully Global Group and LAM network to sponsor the event, surprised us with an announcement that she’ll take girls flying for free lessons. Ana is a private pilot and eager to show her hobby to young Latinas. What a treat to meet her…a fellow Latina with a love of airplanes!



photo by Alex Ontiveros of Silicon Valley Latino

So much more will be written, but most important is a shout out to those who organized this event today: Angelica Perez-Litwin, Hilda Ramirez, Stephanie Bravo, Maria Hernandez. You epitomize leadership. Thank you for bringing the sisterhood together in such a memorable way!

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What President Clinton Wants You to Know About American Solar Power

Last fall, I had the opportunity to hear President Clinton speak to professionals in the solar energy industry as I joined it. Here’s a summary I wrote afterward that ran in The Huffington Post Green section, detailing what he wants the American public to understand about this renewable energy source. Enjoy and please share. We must not waste the sun and continue to let Germany and China kick our solar butts!

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Hermano Engineers Work to Prepare Next Generation of Latino STEM Innovators

Two brothers, Ed and Jesse Martinez, became electrical and mechanical engineers, respectively.
Now, as globally competitive entrepreneurs, they’ve founded the Latino Startup Alliance with Latina engineer Jennifer Arguello. They have also created a tech entrepreneurship program for high school students to motivate them to pursue higher education and careers in STEM. Read about them here in Fox News Latino Community.
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She Leads through Sustainable Branding

Last week, I posted a piece at The Huffington Post titled “Sustainability Leadership through Branding: A Woman and a Community of 50,000.”   Due to the constraints of word counts, I had to truncate the piece. Below is the complete article in its entirely, a profile of KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, founder of the Sustainable Brands conference happening this week in San Diego.

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz

The more time I spend studying how people act on their understanding of climate change, sustainable business practices and what can really be done to reverse trends that must be reversed, the more fascinated I am with the variety of approaches and ideas human beings are putting into play.

I recently interviewed a woman who believes that positive environmental changes can occur through the process of branding. Branding, as in corporate branding done by corporate marketers? Yes, branding, but we must understand how she defines branding first.  That idea intrigued me when I heard of the upcoming Sustainable Brands (SB) conference in San Diego, founded by KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz.

What is a sustainable brand? KoAnn defines it as “A better brand that endures by respecting and delighting all stakeholders in both current and future generations.”

Two key words that jump out right away are “stakeholders” (not shareholders) and the word “future.”  These words are the opposite of short-term, quarterly reporting behavior more common in today’s largest publicly-traded companies and brands.

For the definition of brand, KoAnn offers “First who you are, what you do, and how you do it, then how you talk about it.”

This order of things is very important.

“One thing that must happen to create a sustainable economy is a shift in how we deal with complex systems. For example, we have strived so much for efficiency but that ideal doesn’t address our global, sustainable needs. We must therefore create a new definition of brand. We need to get it to what we do and how before we ever talk about it.”

I completely get this.  As a global marketing manager for a European company, I was once told to “develop our green marketing story for our portfolio.”  I pushed back on that approach and insisted that we instead demonstrate to the market proof of our own environmental responsibility. I felt that going to market with green marketing messages to sell our products, before putting forth our story of how we were walking the walk, could easily undermine our credibility. The entire process took a long time, but apparently, according to KoAnn, that’s the norm.

I asked KoAnn for a future view of how sustainable branding will make a difference over time.

“I underestimate the amount of time things will take,” She replied. “The notion of embedding purpose into the heart of brand is where we’re going.”

She sees the need for a major shift in thinking in business leadership.

“It’s in our individual best interest to care about the interests of others,” she shares. “We’ve gotten away from our cultural values, with all the talk of competitive advantage. How we get to the desired result is what matters now.”

As a change management expert, she immediately offered her view of one of the greatest challenges to this necessary approach.

“Getting the brand managers to engage has been the most difficult task,” she reveals. “They’ve traditionally been measured only on sales, on getting consumers to desire what they want them to want and to buy.”

She points out that this is the exact opposite of what Steve Jobs did as an innovator. He didn’t give consumers what they wanted; he created products they never knew could exist!

This reminded me of an insightful article published at that succinctly describes the disconnect happening inside many organizations. Titled “Is there a Disconnect in Your Green Company?” it was written by environmental entrepreneur Dennis Salazar, President of Chicago-based Salazar Packaging.

So given the many organizational disconnects, what’s the solution?  The answer came when I asked KoAnn to name the most important accomplishment resulting from the SB conference she founded.

“We have been able to get big brands to create cross functional teams to expand the conversation into a multi-stakeholder conversation,” she replied.

One approach she cites is the intentional work to get innovators together with big brand companies.  This change management guru is uniquely equipped to positively impact the planet by injecting innovative thinking into changing the status quo behavior of some of the globe’s largest brands.

Seeking an example of this innovation, I spoke with Leilani Latimer, Director Global Sustainability Initiatives for travel technology company Sabre Holdings. She describes her organization as, “We touch everybody that has anything to do with travel in any form in some way.”

Leilani has attended three of KoAnn’s SB conferences, sometimes with colleagues from different business units. She spoke of the many valuable ideas she and her colleagues took away each time. She stressed how having shared that creative foundation led to brainstorming ideas that were implemented as part of sustainability initiatives across multiple business units.  One such example was a game starring the Travelocity gnome during Earth Week. The game made participating in a sustainability initiative fun for consumers, while highlighting the real operational improvements at New York City’s greenest hotels.  She also talked of the “co-creation” process she witnesses before during and after the event, something she doesn’t find elsewhere.

“There are no prima donnas there,” Leilani stated. “The speakers and panelists are really part of the community.  They stick around after the conference so the conversation and co-creation can continue. People who come to this conference truly want to make sure they’re serving customers in a long-lasting and meaningful way, for their customers and for the environment.”

So what results from these multi-stakeholder conversations?

“We have helped people charged with environmental duties inside organizations to articulate the value proposition of making necessary operational changes,” KoAnn shares.

This is an incredibly important point. KoAnn is demonstrating why the move toward sustainable business practices must happen from the inside out. It’s the opposite of the company whose management doesn’t understand that point; they unfortunately begins their so-called green marketing campaign by attempting to persuade consumers to buy their products. When these claims prove false or when consumers doubt the company really is taking care of the environment, that’s when the brand can be damaged.

Finally, drawing from my own experience, I asked KoAnn if she was aware of authentically responsible, positive behavior practiced by organizations that is not well known by the general public.

“Companies make two big mistakes: saying things that aren’t true and not saying things that are true,” she states. “We’re helping them to be authentic, to say the good truth.”

She spoke of organizations making important product reformulation, packaging, supply chain and logistics improvements, changes that truly matter and minimize negative environmental impacts, positive changes that somehow don’t make it into their marketing story.  She specifically mentioned Caesar’s Entertainment, the parent company of Harrah’s hotels and casinos.  In Las Vegas, their hotel staff diligently practices the 4 Rs by sorting the garbage behind the hotel, to minimize the landfill-bound waste. Yet, they don’t tell the front office they’re doing it. None of their customers know about this zero-waste-to-landfill practice happening every day.

“Management has chosen to not tell their customers because they don’t want to guilt them into thinking they should also do this.”

That decision says a lot more about the consuming public than it does about the organization, but therein lays the complexity of KoAnn’s work.  Her work with her community focuses on figuring out how to get consumers and brands on the same side. She knows businesses can get to a point where they are minimizing their negative impacts on the environment while creating value for their many stakeholders. She and her team, and the thousands who participate in the SB conference and community, are working the tough change management processes from the inside. They’re helping the globe’s biggest brands learn and practice the new branding, in the right order:  Who, what, how first; then and only then do you begin your green marketing campaign with credibility.

The rest is our responsibility as consumers. We must demand real accountability, real behavioral changes and real operational changes from our favorite brands. We must reward those who deliver the changes needed to damage our planetary home less. We must punish those who attempt to achieve sales benefits without doing the work inside the organization first.  Are we are intelligent enough to learn the difference?

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Celebrating Latino Environmental Entrepreneurs –Profiles for Earth Day 2012 (part 3 of 3)

Fox New Latino honored three of the “Latinnovators” from Latinnovating as part of their Earth Day celebration. Here is the third in the series I was asked to contribute:

Rosamaria Caballero-Stafford—Leading and Greening One Place at a Time

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Are You Effectively Reaching Skeptical Latinos with Your Green Marketing?

In a recent Huffington Post article, I explored the implications of a Cone Communications study when marketing to various Latino market segments. I’d love to hear comments, especially from those actively marketing green products, services, organizations to different U.S. Latino market segments.



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Celebrating Latino Environmental Entrepreneurs –Profiles for Earth Day 2012 (part 2 of 3)

Fox New Latino honored three of the “Latinnovators” from Latinnovating as part of their Earth Day celebration. Here is the second in the series I was asked to contribute:

Luis Rojas–Leading Public Schools onto Renewable Energy


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