Healey's Latino Advisory Council visits Springfield for listening session
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Gov. Maura Healey's Latino Empowerment Advisory Council will make a stop in Springfield on Saturday to hear from community members about their needs and ideas to improve the region.
Elizabeth Cardona, the executive director of multicultural affairs and international student life at Bay Path University in Longmeadow and a member of the council, said she hopes people from diverse Latino backgrounds will attend and share their thoughts.
"One of the things that we are expanding is the diversity within the Latino community. So I'm hoping that we get people who identify differently. People who are not just Puerto Rican, but from other diverse communities," she said. " Also different generations. We have folks that have been involved for years and we have new people with new ideas and new perspectives and talent."
The listening session is open to the public and will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Springfield Technical Community College, which is a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
“We are looking forward to coming to STCC, hearing from the community about their needs and discussing potential solutions,” said Josiane Martinez, chair of the council, in a prepared statement. “We expect lively discussions about topics affecting the Latino community in greater Springfield, including prosperity, wellbeing and equity.”
In April, Healey signed an executive order to create the 40-member advisory council, made up of Latino leaders from across the state. The council will advise Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll on the needs of Latino communities across the state.
There are about 883,000 Latinos in Massachusetts, making up 12.8% of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More than 16% of the state's Latinos live in the four western counties, but initially western Massachusetts only had one person represented on the council. That has changed with the addition of Cardona, of Springfield.
Cardona joins Samalid Hogan, CEO of Greylock Management Consulting in Holyoke, together they will work to highlight the needs and ideas of the four counties.
Cardona said the council has already broken up into subcommittees focusing on a variety of issues.
"We're working on mental health, education, small businesses, entrepreneurship, workforce development and affordable housing. We know that that's a huge problem across the state, but how does that impact each and every different community?" Cardona said.
She said one important area for her personally is mental health.
"Housing is incredibly important and workforce development too, but it's very difficult to secure a job and adequate housing if you are struggling mentally," she said. "Getting help for mental health is still a stigma in our community and that's something we want to change."
The council also has listening sessions planned on June 13 in Lynn; June 17 in Lawrence; and June 20 in Worcester. In the fall, the council will share information from the community meetings with the governor.