Again, it was another spectacular United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Annual Conference.  This year the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary!  Congratulations!!!  Based in Chicago, USHLI seeks to empower Latinos and other disenfranchised groups with leadership development training and encourage civic awareness and participation in the electoral process.  Dr. Juan Andrade leads USHLI.  Dr. Andrade is passionate about service and making an impact on the Latino community, especially its youth.  The USHLI Annual Conference is the largest leadership conference of Latino college students in the country, attracting youth from colleges and universities throughout the US.  I have volunteered as a workshop presenter for the event for the last six years, and I absolutely love the conference every year!


USHLI 2012 Scholarship Recipients and me

I encourage all college students and community leaders to attend USHLI at least one year during his/her college or professional career.  You do not have to be Latino to participate.  It is important that the wider American community also become familiar with issues important to the Latino community in order that they may be sensitive to and supportive of the community.  We need allies and friends!   The conference is an invaluable experience.  You will enhance your personal, professional and leadership development through the various workshops; learn about current issues relating to and/or affecting the Latino community; meet people from all areas of the country; and gain exposure to national Latino leadership.   The USHLI conference is worth your time investment.

The conference has many outstanding features, including workshops, forums and keynote speakers.  Each component contributes to the leadership development of its participants.  During the conference USHLI also honors outstanding Latino leadership who have made significant contributions to the community and/or in their respective fields.

My workshop at USHLI 2012

Workshop topics range in subject:  leadership development, civic and political engagement, balancing responsibilities in college, overcoming obstacles, personal relationships, health and fitness, building wealth, and etiquette, just to name a few.  This year I presented several workshops, among them:  “Together We Can!:  Closing the Educational Achievement Gap within the African American and Latino Communities” and “We Have the Power, So Let’s Use It!:  Advancing Civic and Political Engagement within the African American and Latino Communities.”  During these two sessions participants broke into groups and had extensive discussion about how to close the educational gap and how to increase civic and political engagement.  I requested all groups to send me their recommendations to post on my website in order to share with others.  This information can be used as a framework for other organizations interested in addressing these concerns.  At the bottom of this email are the solutions that have been submitted thus far.  The students and I hope that the information will prompt further discussion, but most of all, action.  I welcome all other groups to also submit their information.  Upon receipt they will be posted as well.

My sister Dr. Rhesa Houston and I presenting a workshop at USHLI 2012

One of the personal highlights for me this year was presenting with my youngest sister Dr. Rhesa Houston.  Although she and I present workshops in a variety of settings, it was our first time presenting as a team.  Our workshop “Study, Lead and Play:  Finding Balance While Navigating through College” sought to teach students how to develop a work-life balance while excelling as scholars and student leaders.  As college students and professionals, my sister and I have achieved many of our academic and professional goals.  We have both excelled in college,  having received terminal degrees, and we have both served in influential leadership roles as students and professionals.  As a result, we have developed our own philosophies and strategies for success.  It was a fun and funny experience presenting with my sister, especially because we are so distinctly different!  The students even commented on the fact that they liked the contrasting perspectives, energy and personalities.  I look forward to many more presentation s with my sister in the future.

Like the workshops, the forums also ranged in subject.  They included immigration, the Latino Vote in 2012, Latinas breaking the glass ceiling, and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender struggle for social justice.  Forum speakers included Randy Parraz, Director, Citizens for a Better Arizona; Maria Cardona, Principle, Dewey Square Group; Leslie Sanchez, President and CEO, Impacto Group; Hon. Aida M. Alvarez, Former Director, US Small Business Administration; Arisa Batista Cunningham, Vice President, Global Diversity, Johnson and Johnson Company; Hon. John D. Trasviña, Assistant Secretary, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Russell Roybal, Deputy Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Delia Garcia, Senior Liaison, Minority Community Outreach, National Education Association.

President's Reception honoring Dr. Juan Andrade, left to right:  My husband Terreon Gully; Luis Caban, USHLI Board Member; Me; Cid Wilson, "Mr. Afro-Latino of America"

President’s Reception honoring Dr. Juan Andrade, left to right: My husband Terreon Gully; Luis Caban, USHLI Board Member; Me; Cid Wilson, “Mr. Afro-Latino of America”

Every year USHLI awards some of the most distinguished and accomplished members of the Latino community, who have excelled in their fields and made significant contributions to the Latino community, America and the world.  As always this year’s awardees are some of the Latino community’s finest!  Awardees included Rey B. Gonzalez, National Hispanic Hero Award;  Hon. Aida M. Alvarez, Henry L. (Hank) Lacayo Lifetime Achievement Award; Hon. Lorraine Cortéz-Vázquez, Cesar Chavez Community Service Award; Christina M. Martínez, William C. Velasquez Volunteer of the Year Award; Alma L. Guajardo-Crossley, Corporate Visionary Award; Hon. Joe Baca, Edward R. Roybal, Henry B. Gonzalez Award for Excellence in Public Service; and Hon. Mickey Ibarra, Medallion for Excellence in Government Relations.  What an outstanding group of individuals!

Some of the keynote speakers this year included:  Deborah Deras, speaker and life coach; Jimmy Cabrera, President, Success through Excellence; MG Kelly K. McKeague, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Guard Matters, US Department of Defense; and Henry Cisneros, Executive Chairman, CityView.  I especially enjoyed hearing Jimmy Cabrera and Henry Cisneros speak.  Jimmy Cabrera spoke about the importance of branding.  Encouraging students to be conscious of and shape their personal brand, Cabrera declared “Excellence should be your brand….You must do your best….We have mountains to climb!”

Hon. Henry Cisneros

In his speech Henry Cisneros focused on the importance of Latino leaders becoming public servants, not for personal gain or family prestige, but to serve.  He highlighted the significance of public service, stating that Latino elected and appointed officials are important to the Latino community and the country.  Encouraging college students to pursue excellence as well as public service, Cisneros argued, “We need the absolute best and brightest talent as public servants.”  He went on to add, “We need Latino leadership in every facet of professional life:  business, education, nonprofit and religious.”  Acknowledging the growth of the Latino community and its significance to America, Cisneros concluded, “We are going to have more responsibility than we ever had.  It is a historical moment.  If we want America to advance, we are going to have to make it advance.  Latinos must take our positions of responsibility in this country.”

Thank you to all of the sponsors who contributed to another successful USHLI conference.  I want to specifically acknowledge General Motors for donating a car to USHLI.  The Buick Division of GM donated a 2012 Verano to USHLI to raise funds for scholarships and internships.  For the raffle ticket price of $100, you can contribute to the fundraiser as well as potentially win a new car!  USHLI seeks to sell 1000 tickets by the end of July with the expectation of raising $100,000.  The winner will be announced at USHLI’s Annual Dinner on August 16th, 2012.  To contribute to this noteworthy effort by purchasing your raffle ticket(s), contact USHLI at (312) 427-8683.

I look forward to supporting the USHLI Southeast Region Conference which will be held in Atlanta, March 23-24, 2012.  For more information about the conference and registration, please visit the conference website.

Mark your calendars for next year.  The USHLI National Conference will be held February 14-17, 2013, in Chicago!


Session Solutions

Session:  “We Have the Power So Let’s Use It!:  Advancing Civic and Political Engagement within the African American and Latino Communities”

Solutions on how to influence our communities to VOTE:

As an individual, I can:
  • Talk to family and circle of friends
  • Email/contact elected officials to encourage them to host forums
  • Set-up voter information and registration booths
  • Give reasons for people to care; relatable information.  Explain: what’s in it for me?
  • Participate in door to door communication
  • Provide citizenship workshops that educate residents about obtaining U.S. citizenship and the right to vote
  • Understand the importance of language; materials should be available in multiple languages; Encourage individuals who are bilingual to volunteer at voting sites
As an organization, we can:
  • Serve as volunteer for voter registration and education projects
  • Incorporate the importance of voter participation into the projects we already do (e.g. include contact information of elected officials or voter registration applications with holiday food baskets)
  • Collaborate with other student organizations active in increasing voter participation
  • Address the bystander effect (someone else is doing it/will do it); instead of thinking others will be the solution, we will be the solution

Group members represented the following institutions:

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
  • Carroll University
  • University of St. Francis
  • South Elgin High School, IL
  • College of Lake County
  • University of Wisconsin, Stout


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