Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge Updated

Ahead of the launch of Latinnovating, I posted the “Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge.” This is my wake-up call to all Americans, with shocking, absolute, meaningful numbers that truly depict the current crisis and future consequence of America’s fastest growing minority group being the least educated. It includes a prescription of what actions a mentor can and should take to change a young Latino life. Mentoring is the action that made the difference for many of us who were the first in our families to attend and graduate from college. A non-Latino (typically) mentor intervened, told us we had to seek higher education and guided us through the “how.” In my case, as in many, my mentor also helped me connect with funding sources. This knowledge and guidance made it possible for me to leave my small town in Colorado for the University of California in Berkeley. I went there on an Air Force ROTC scholarship which (thankfully) paid all out-of-state tuition, fees, books and provided a stipend.

Scholarship Cadet Graciela Tiscareño at U.C. Berkeley

Since my original blog post, this challenge suddenly got tied to the discussion surrounding the DREAM act, when a young, high-profile man came out as an undocumented immigrant. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jose Antonio Vargas at a fundraising dinner at his alma mater last November at San Francisco State. That night we chatted about our creative projects and exchanged cards. During the event, we screened his documentary about the hidden AIDS epidemic in our nation’s capital city. I saw first hand how highly he is respected by all who know him and his work. I joined many Americans in shock the day this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist broke the news in the New York Times about how he came to the U.S. as a child and how he learned of his immigration status.

Why this connection? It’s simple really. If you read my original post and take a moment to absorb the number of college graduates needed annually from the Latino community for our nation to remain competitive and educated versus other nation states (611,000) and compare to the number of Latino college graduates currently being produced (130,000), you can start to see how the DREAM act plays into this mentoring challenge.

Then, to truly be shocked, look at how many Latino high school students graduate each year (300,000). How many more would there be if we passed the DREAM act? How many more kids would START high school instead of giving up after middle school because they know they’re undocumented and feel there’s no hope and no future beyond high school?

My point is this: we don’t have any Latino students and brains to waste if America wants to seriously compete in the 21st century. We simply do not have that luxury.

Mentoring two young Latinos for the long-term, to ensure they graduate from college, is something many more Americans must do. As side show conversations and reform “attempts” continue, we lose more of our kids each day. To make a real difference, commit to this and take the Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge. It’s the one thing you CAN do to begin to change a life, and the trajectory of that kid’s entire future and that of his/her descendants, forever. Mentoring is the only way that some of the stories in the pages of Latinnovating became possible. Read them for yourself; reflect on my story in first paragraph, then please jump in! Join me?


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Familia AND a Four Year Degree

banner outside NHU in San Jose

This week I had the honor of presenting at National Hispanic University in East San Jose. NHU is hosting their annual Summer Bridge program for Trio students. This term refers to those students who are:

  1. from low-income families
  2. the first in their family to attend a university and
  3. in college classes for the first time

What’s unique about the NHU model is that its founders understood that leaving family to attend school far from home is culturally very difficult for Latino students to do. Add to that the financial burden of attending college and the odds that a young Latino or Latina will leave home to pursue higher education are indeed very small. Speaking from personal experience, I can share that when I was accepted to U.C. Berkeley and awarded the scholarship to do so, my community in Colorado was less than supportive. “You’re really going to leave your mother?” was a question I fielded more than once. That’s why bringing the university to the barrio is a brilliant solution. Now, “trio” students can pursue their four-year degree, while remaining at home, making higher education suddenly much more accessible and realistic.

signing books and chatting with incoming freshmen

Martha Escalera, Arnufo Sanchez and the rest of the Student Success team do amazing work there. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with the incoming freshman and the high school students that will follow in the future. I hope to return again soon to be part of your very special, culturally-relevant, inspiring program!

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Putting the Kids into Military Flight Suits

Young Latinas beginning to dream

My week ended with a fantastic experience at a charter school with a great name–the Making Waves Academy. I was invited to present to 70 “wave makers,” – 7th grade students, all Latino and African-American, enrolled in a summer program to expose them to curriculum and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM.)

I was asked to present my own challenges as a Latina born to undereducated parents, who dared to dream a bigger vision of my life and who found ways to make it happen. Specifically, I was asked to share my military aviation career with the kids and connect it to the STEM curriculum they are now undertaking.

I titled my presentation ‘The STEM of Aviation.” I shared the cultural, financial and academic challenges I faced as a teenager. I shared specifically HOW I overcame them and who helped me. I encouraged each student to seek out mentors, to associate with friends who have college-educated parents and to ensure there are adults around them telling them they are college material. I shared deeply personal stories of familial resistance to the oldest daughter leaving the state for the halls of U.C. Berkeley hundreds of miles from home. I shared photos and stories of where that fabulous career took me in the world. I showed how elements of each S, T, E and M relate to aerodynamics, avionics systems, weather, physiology, navigation and more.

But the best parts came at the end, with amazing questions from the students and the donning of REAL Air Force flight suits, gloves and scarves.

Among the question I was asked were these:

  • What did you do in middle school to prepare for college?
  • What did your parents want you to be when you grew up?
  • How did you decide you wanted to fly for the military? and, the killer question
  • Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

That last one was tricky! I answered it with my philosophy that has gotten me through the most difficult times: “Remind yourself that you’re on a time line that never stops and that nothing lasts forever. If you’re at a moment in life when something is unpleasant, difficult, boring or unbearable, persevere and remind yourself that ‘somewhere in time this is already over.'”  I think they liked that.

The last fifteen minutes were spent snapping photos as three kids at a time donned my flight suits, gloves and scarves and said things like, “Whoa dude, you look great!” and “That flight suit looks great on you!”

7th graders thinking about aviation careers

What fun! I am blessed to be able to do this work, to inspire young people and to expand their horizons far beyond their current circumstance.

I look forward to more opportunities like this. That you Dr. Evelyn Wesley and team!

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Mentoring Latinas

Today I was reminded that there are heroes among us, men and women who, more than most Americans, understand that young Latinos need mentors.

Dr. Ellen Silber is one such person. Read this story of how her program in New York is changing lives by connecting Latina mentors to young Latinas who desperately need them.

Then, find an organization like this and become a mentor. Take the “Two by 2020 Challenge” and change some lives.

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Inspired by My Father I Became an Entrepreneur

Biking with my Papi in San Diego

I read a story this morning that rounded up the comments of several entrepreneurs who had been directly inspired by their fathers to start their own businesses.

To honor my own father, Arturo Tiscareño, and to encourage you to do the same, here’s my tribute to my father’s creative, entrepreneurial spirit.

My father came to the USA alone in the 1960s. As a tailor, he worked for several owners of mens’ clothing stores in Los Angeles. He created clothing for Hollywood stars, including as I’ve heard many times, Ms. Doris Day. During my childhood in Colorado, he worked at different points in time at two different mens’ clothing stores I remember well to support our large family. Yet, what he wanted was to run his own shop.

At the age of 66, after spending a year bored with retirement (and missing the daily contact with the public), he and my mother Agustina opened their own little tailor shop in Spokane, Washington. This is where I was stationed at the time, flying as a military officer and aircraft navigator for the US Air Force. They had followed me up there to make this city their retirement home, to be near their oldest daughter.

I did their marketing and PR for the 14 years they grew their business. They stayed healthy, mentally active, and increased their social circle a bit every day.

Today, I run my own marketing and communications excellence firm and I just launched my first book at Stanford University (Latinnovating, showcasing Latino entrepreneurs and innovators in the green economy). I dedicated the book, in part, to my father, now 83 years old and still vibrant.

He and my mother finally did retire, when he was 81. They now spend their time traveling around the nation visiting their four children and eleven grandchildren. This includes three grand children in the Baltimore area where they will spend this Fathers Day. (I now live in California.)

Thank you Papi (and Mami too) for showing me the joy of building your own business.  I hope to be as successful and happy in my work as I saw you in yours! Felíz día de los Padres!

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Crowdsourcing and Brainstorming with White House Leaders on Latino Education

6 engineers -the "Latinas in Tech" Panel

Yesterday was a profoundly interesting day. I was invited to attend the #LATISM (Latinos in Social Media)-hosted #Latino2 event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain (Silicon Valley.) In one day, I was able to:

  • enjoy a panel of six Latina engineers sharing knowledge, a truly unusual, beautiful sight
  • directly participate in the Kiva-like process of idea sharing led by Juan Sepulveda, Executive Director of the White House Educational Excellence for Hispanics Initiative
  • meet 160 like-minded, tech-savvy, action-oriented, educated Latinos and focus on the issue we most care about
  • see the results of our brainstorming via live Twitter feed that will be compiled and shared with President Obama and (hopefully) Arnie Duncan. You can see the list of ideas we collectively put forth here on Twitter #HispanicEd.
  • speak publicly again about my Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge wake-up-call article (with shocking statistics we MUST understand) and its call to action for all Americans.

This last point was especially important and resonated with many. I first introduced the idea and call to action at Stanford two weeks ago as I launched my book. In the book, ten Latino innovators and entrepreneurs hold 19 degrees. Several of those leaders trace their  degrees (and their life’s success) to a non-Latino mentor that showed up and intervened against strong cultural and community forces directing them away from college. Many in the audience yesterday told this story too. This is my story as well.

I strongly stated yesterday that I believe nothing else will have the kind of impact and cause the kind of changes we need immediately. With one great, national PSA (public service announcement) showcasing a successful Latina, stating that it was her non-Latino mentor that changed her life by steering and guiding her to pursue higher education, we can engage millions of Americans to seek a young Latino and change his/her life. It’s the only thing that has ever worked; we must multiply and accelerate mentorship for young Latinos NOW. Many ideas put forth will never work because of political realities; this idea has no opposition. Who opposes increased mentoring of young Latinos who desperately need it?

We college-educated Latinos will of course continue to mentor, but only 12% of us have at least a two-year college degree. The rest of America needs to join in, understand the gravity of the numbers and understand that it’s a national (not Latino) crisis affecting our short and long-term competitiveness. When they do, they can (and will) intentionally show up to change a young Latino life.

I’m deeply grateful to Giovanni, Elma, Ana and the entire team that made this event possible and unique. To be able to share our ideas, passions and solutions with the White House was a blessing.

Now, we will be watching closely to see what is done with all these great ideas. We also look forward to working together with Mr. Sepulveda and Mr. Rico for the long term to make a difference for our severely undereducated community.

Juan Sepulveda, leader of educational improvements for Latinos

Thanking Ana, Founder of LATISM, for an amazing event

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The Buzz around Latinnovating is Building

I finally had a quiet day to reflect on achieving the milestone of publishing and launching my first book. The members of my publishing team at Thrive Publishing took me out to dinner recently to celebrate. One of them reminded me to “treat this project as a tasty meal, take time to slow down, savor the flavor and swallow.” So I finally am doing that.

Today I sat down to appreciate the great press that the book has gotten so far. The complete list of articles profiles and feature stories is here. Here are two highlights. Enjoy!

7-page feature story, Latino Leaders Magazine


Latinnovating author profile, NSHMBA magazine

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Picture of the Day

special delivery of Latinnovating to our Secretary of Labor

As I checked in with Facebook friends this morning, I was greeted with this wonderful picture, posted by my friend and Latinnovating star, Robert Zardeneta, Executive Director of LA CAUSA. Here’s the story of how one of our Cabinet members came to receive a copy of my book this week.

The day after the book launch at Stanford two weeks ago, Robert’s family and my family met in the hallway of our hotel. His three children and my three children, very similar in ages, enjoyed meeting each other and playing for a few minutes. During this time, Robert reminded me that he hadn’t picked up his books the day before, so I went out to my car to get some. He shared that Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, would be visiting LA CAUSA soon. He asked me if I would sign a book for her and I of course agreed.

The Secretary visited Robert’s outstanding organization in East Los Angeles this week. One of the staff members took this picture at the moment Robert presented her the book; the book in which his fantastic personal and professional stories are told. It’s such a cool picture and I’m so happy to have been part of this important visit, in this small way. I’m so grateful that my two years of work in creating this book is finally beginning its reach around the nation!

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Launch Day at Stanford

From Latinnovating --Frank Ramirez, CEO Ice Energy, Carmen Rad, President CR&A Custom Inc., author Graciela, Dr. Monica DeZulueta of Microsoft and Robert Zardeneta, Executive Director of LA CAUSA

It’s been a few days since this baby was debuted at Stanford, at the Second Annual Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit. I am still processing the amazing events of the day, the new connections made and the new friends that entered my life. For now, I simply want to share a photo and a video, with promises of more later.

Diana Estrada, a.k.a. Positive Diana, made a video with three Latina college students that made the trip to the Summit from Utah Valley University. Listening to this interview and the takeaway lessons expressed by these young ladies makes my heart swell with pride to be able to promote this event for my friend and visionary, Frank Carbajal. Watch this video and you’ll understand why we do this event: to demonstrate the tremendous, diverse leadership within the Latino community so that our young people can meet life-long mentors and be inspired to reach even higher.

The photo I want to share is a special memory: the day that four of ten of the stars of my book came together, met each other, traded stories and formed new friendships. I was deeply honored that these four were there, because they traveled from Los Angeles, Colorado and Florida. Thank you Frank, Carmen, Monica and Robert. You made this special day extraordinary!


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Getting Latinnovating into the hands of Kids

This week I introduced my book at a Green Economy conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The very next day, I had the pleasure of presenting to my very first group of students in the nation, the students at Ellen Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mr. Leonard, a retired fellow military aviator turned science teacher, arranged for me to visit. He heard about me and my book from Ms. Angela De Jesus, mother to a Glasgow student. Having heard me speak at the John Hopkins Carey Business School in the fall, Angela asked me to visit during the book’s East Coast debut.

“The stories of the innovators profiled in Latinnovating are of higher education, of innovation and of courage,” De Jesus said. “I asked Graciela to come to our school to give our students a larger vision of what’s possible in their lives. As she shares the journeys and accomplishments of these role models innovating in our emerging green economy, I know our students will feel motivated to follow in these successful footsteps. They’ll see what success looks like in the long-term.”

I signed books for the hand-picked group of kids that attended. It was a most satisfying day for me as an author. I am making my dream happen. I am getting my work, showcasing childhood-to-entrepreneurship stories, into the hands of those whose lives it will directly impact.

How do I know this? I received a Facebook message later that night, from the older sister of one of the students who received my book. In part she wrote, “My little sister came home with your book. I wish I had been there.”

Thank you Angela. Thank you Mr. Leonard!

Will your school be next? Contact me at (510) 542-9449 or grace AT Latinnovating DOT com and let’s get it on the schedule.

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