WhilemanyHispanic people in the United States are of Caribbean, South American or Mexican origin, there are thousands of identities represented within the greater community. That’s why Capital One is celebrating the people who have helped build one beautiful pan-ethnic mosaico through new patterns of perspective, fibers of language and layers of legacy.
Dr. Antonio R. Flores: Education For All
When Dr. Antonio Flores arrived in the United States at the age of 25, he didn’t speak much English. In spite of having to learn a second language, Flores completed his master’s degree and a Ph.D. He later became the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)’s president and CEO.
HACU’s mission is to champion Hispanic success in higher education through its 488 colleges, universities and school districts located in 35 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 9 countries in Latin America and Europe. The association hopes to foster the next generation of diverse leaders in higher education to ensure all students can find a diverse community on their college campuses.
In 2022, HACU welcomed 39 fellows into its fourth cohort of the Leadership Academy, a program that prepares professionals for leadership roles in the full spectrum of institutions of higher learning with an emphasis on HSIs (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) and Emerging HSIs.
Group of friends take selfie on college campus.
“Most of these young people at Hispanic-Serving Institutions are first-generation college students,” said Flores. “For me, that means they’re already leading the way and setting the tenor for future generations. We have a chance to help them through internships and leadership programs, and that’s what we’re committed to doing so that they can make a difference for many others who may be less fortunate than they are.”
Increasing the representation of diverse teachers and leaders in education can help build cultural understanding in students, thereby boosting academic performance. Flores hopes that, ultimately, college graduation will help to advance earnings and employment for the students.
Marla Bilonick: An Entrepreneurial Mindset
Marla Bilonick, President and CEO of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), is another example of a leader supporting her community. She’s always been intrigued by the entrepreneurial spirit and how different environments and support systems can help people succeed or fail. During the recovery period following the Sept. 11 attacks, she developed this understanding by working with small businesses and discovering that even the best of them can’t survive without the proper resources. This fueled her passion for community economic development and eventually led her to oversee NALCAB.
NALCAB, a national network of nearly 200 mission-driven organizations spread out across 45 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Its mission: to address aﬀordable housing, invest in Latino-owned small businesses and neighborhoods, provide financial coaching, champion policy reforms to advance racial and economic justice, support affordable housing and provide financial counseling for credit-building and homeownership.
Group of people in circle holding their fists together.
“Having intentionality when we serve Latino communities and community members where NALCAB network nonprofits are located is very important to me,” said Bilonick. “The Latino economic engine is very powerful. If you want to stimulate the U.S. economy, this is the community you have to invest in.”
As NALCAB’s president and CEO, Bilonick heads up support for member organizations to gain access to funding, nonprofit resources and professional development to build thriving communities. But she is constantly “ears to the ground,” listening to her member organizations discuss the local needs of low- to moderate-income families and individuals they serve.
“These days, I like to get as much input from other people as I can since I find that great ideas exist outside of me,” said Bilonick. “Coming together as a group to unify organizations and listen to their concerns allows NALCAB to influence programming from the government and chambers of commerce.”
Capital One: Providing Wraparound Support
Part of Capital One’s wraparound support of HACU’s mission includes a grant to help HACU provide leadership expertise for Florida International University (FIU) and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM) leadership and administrators as a way to close career readiness gaps for undergraduate students. The company is also supporting NALCAB’s efforts on three separate national initiatives as part of NALCAB’s mission to advance economic mobility for Latino communities.
“[The] most important asset is not necessarily money but people,” said Flores of Capital One’s support. “If you have the right people for the right leadership challenges, chances are that you will succeed.”
You can learn more about Capital One’s support of the Hispanic community and other underrepresented groups here.
This article was paid for by Capital One and created by HuffPost’s Branded Creative Team. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.