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Empowering Youth, Applauding Helpful Brands: Q&A With Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Tijerino

This continues my series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with interviews of experts in the fields of Hispanic heritage, culture, and advertising. I’m especially excited to be speaking with the president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Antonio Tijerino.

Where would you like the HHF to be one year from now?

My big push with HHF is to ensure that our ecosystem of talent is even more self-sustaining than it already is, and to empower people to leverage the relationships they built through our organization in their businesses, startups, marketing plans, or whatever it is they’re doing.

For instance, Jonathan Padilla, who won our youth award 13 years ago, is now a blockchain expert. He took the HHF model and used it to create a specific and unique pathway within the blockchain space, one that’s completely different from what others are doing. On top of that, he was able to take his experience as a Schwarzman scholar and use it to create a webinar that then encouraged more Latinos to apply for the scholarship.

The other thing involves [marketing]. I want to be able to broaden our reach and be more surgical in terms of who we reach and how we reach them. If you’re trying to get people to access jobs in technology, you need to market the industry. If you’re trying to get more people to mobilize on a certain issue, and raise awareness, you need marketing. Even getting parents to be more involved with their children’s academics requires marketing. In everything we do, there’s a marketing aspect...

What brands and organizations are doing a good job of recognizing the importance of the Latino community and culture?

Every brand is out there trying, and very often they need some guidance. Most companies have realized that this needs to be an integral part of their marketing strategies.

Companies like Nationwide are trying to engage the Latino community for the right reasons and in a substantive way -- not just by supporting the Hispanic Heritage Awards and the TV program, but also through initiatives such as offering seminars on financial planning or teaching kids how to code. Those, combined with marketing and public awareness of their involvement with the community, are substantive, meaningful ways to reach Latinos.

Google is one company that’s focused on engaging the Latino community in a meaningful way.

At HHF, we’ve also worked with companies like ExxonMobil who conduct huge media campaigns that promote amazing young Latinos and established Latinos in the STEM areas.

Target has also been tremendous in reaching out to the Latino community, from their advertising to their support of organizations like ours and many others to their focus on the community.

I could go on, but here’s one last example: Southwest Airlines. They’ve done an excellent job of celebrating Latino culture year-round. It used to be that companies would have a plan for September and October; now, companies like Southwest are making the effort to do something year-round. Just look at where they fly: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico. Those are ways to continue to bridge Latinos in America to Latinos in Latin America.

Why is promoting workforce education such an important part of your work?

Hispanics add value to the United States. The best way to demonstrate the value proposition that we offer is to look at what the country needs, and work from there.

Education is the perfect way to do that: if you have a shortage of tech jobs, as there’s expected to be in the future, teaching kids how to code demonstrates that you can fill that gap.

The U.S. is 22nd in the world in terms of STEM education, so being able to have STEM symposia and work with Latino youth around the country to fill those education gaps is a great way to demonstrate the value that Latinos can add.

It’s also important that we’re thought of as hardworking, and in the right areas. To be able to channel that work ethic and commitment to places where there are gaps in the workforce is the quickest way to demonstrate that value.

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