Volunteering your time and skills not only provides much-needed assistance to those you’re helping, but it also builds a stronger community and gives back to you in innumerable ways. Unfortunately, our Latino community does not traditionally engage in volunteerism as much as other groups.
According to a recent online post by Joseph P.A. Villescas, Ph.D., Latinos “are almost half as likely to volunteer [as] other Americans,” with “less than 15% of Latinos sixteen years of age and older [volunteering].”
That doesn’t sit well with Maria “Ceci” Santana. “We all have a responsibility to give back to the community,” says Ceci. The 18-year-old Placer County resident and Sierra College student joined the Latino Leadership Council’s Auburn Latinos Teens Advancing (ALTA) at the invitation of a friend in January, looking for a place to talk with other Latino teens that were going through similar issues as she was. ALTA started off as a place for teens to share experiences and support, but has grown into a group of active young Latinos organizing positive social events and volunteering in their community.
“In school I don’t see a lot of motivation from teachers or counselors encouraging us to volunteer,” explains Ceci as to why there aren’t many more Latino youth volunteering. “Maybe teachers and counselors don’t expect it from us. But we are at that critical age when we can make a difference and reach out to other teens and become better role models.”
And being a positive role model works. Ceci’s 13-year old sister has now also joined ALTA.
Ceci sees Latinos volunteering as not only a way to help in her community, but also as a way to help counter negative images of our youth. “Who is out there representing our community? You have to do it yourself. Volunteering helps breaks stereotypes and barriers.”
We applaud Ceci and the other ALTA teens for their hard work and dedication to their community and each other. We hope to see this movement grow and spread, and look forward to the day when Latino’s no longer lag among, but instead lead, other Americans in volunteerism.
If you’re interested in learning more about ALTA, contact the Latino Leadership Council or visit ALTA’s facebook page (which is managed by Ceci!).