LULAC members met Jan. 27 at Paine's Restaurant in Hollister to review the coming year's events and programs, as well as review the organization's goals and mission. Included in the roughly 30 individuals in attendance were people involved in local politics, high school students, as well as at least one individual from the original founding group that opened the San Benito County LULAC chapter 30 years ago. Throughout the day members shared how LULAC had shaped their lives and explored what LULAC could do to support the community, as well as increase membership. Speakers said LULAC is not solely for Latino residents and encouraged others to join in to help build a better community.
One way that LULAC hopes to increase membership is through community outreach and breaking down misconceptions that LULAC is only for Latinos. "We are a community based organization. The future of our community is our goal. That includes empowering our youth to be leaders regardless of race, national origin, religion, or politics," LULAC President Cesar Flores said.
Monica Vasquez, president of the youth organization, said, "I'm in LULAC because I want change in my community and I want to make it better for all of us".
Some of the community service projects that the group is currently involved in, or will be in the coming year, include helping register teen voters at the high school, continuing their Young Readers program at R.O. Hardin Elementary School, helping develop leadership skills in local youth, as well as increasing enrollment for their LEAP program. LEAP works with 9th to 11th grade students in San Benito County to do after school STEM activities on the San Benito High School campus.
Alexa Salazar, a college student who has been a member of LULAC for 12 years, wants to help the organization get more involved in the community. While addressing the group Salazar spoke of reaching out within the community and participating in service projects, such as providing care packages to the homeless population of San Benito County.
Elia Salinas responded to these statements by encouraging Salazar and other youth in the room to find what they are passionate about in the community and then getting involved to make positive change. One suggestion that Salinas gave as an example was if students were passionate about animals they could work with the local animal shelter to put on an animal adoption day. Throughout the meeting youth were encouraged to get involved and adults were continually referencing LULAC's goal of helping shape youth in the community into leaders.
Vice President of LULAC, Dr. Edward Cervantes, once considered an at-risk youth, developed into a leader through this organization. Cervantes said that by joining LULAC, he was given a, "greater sense of purpose," where he, "finally had people telling me I could go to college and do great things". Cervantes believes this support and leadership development within the organization is what helped him go from being a 2.0 GPA student to getting a Doctorate at the University of San Francisco. Now an adult, Cervantes serves on the LULAC council as a way to give back to his community.
As found on LULAC's website, "LULAC Council 2890 advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health, housing and civil rights of the Latino population of Hollister and the surrounding area". Flores stressed however, 'LULAC was started by Latinos but is not just a Latino organization," instead it is an organization who strives to get "everybody on board who wants to make a difference in the community."
San Benito County LULAC #2890 will have their next meeting Feb, 3 2018 at the Hollister Community Center starting at 10 a.m. Meetings are open to members and people in the community interested in learning more about the group.
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