Kofi Darku:                 On this episode of the Skill Up Build Up podcast, we have the Indiana Latino Institute, with a big aspiration: raising the Latino voice at the legislative level. Let's go!

Kofi Darku:                   And we're back for another episode of the Skill Up Build Up podcast, powered by the Morales Group, where we are leading talent to thrive. On this episode, we're going to be focusing on some of those key populations that are critical for our workforce. As we start to think about better strategies to meet this awesome demand of more jobs, we've got to get people ready. And the Latino workforce has been very, very important for a long time. Specifically in Indiana, we started to see some families come up in the 1950s. The Morales family was one of those. And since then, you've seen tremendous growth in the Latino population. They are roughly 10% of our Indianapolis population now. And so we wanted to talk about what's happening for this population and community in Indianapolis, especially in terms of how we're getting that next generation ready. So we have some awesome staff from the Indiana Latino Institute. On the show today, we have Marlene Dotson, president and CEO, and Rachel Santos, the education program coordinator, both of Indiana Latino Institute. Welcome.

Marlene Dotson:           Thank you, Kofi. Thank you so much for this opportunity. We're so thrilled for this conversation and sharing about the great programs that we have at Indiana Latino Institute.

Rachel Santos:              Thank you. We're happy to be here.

Kofi Darku:                   Well, I think there's some amazing things happening in this community, and so I just wanted to make sure we're sharing that with our audience. So, the Indiana Latino Institute. Some people may be learning about this organization for the first time as we talk about it on this episode. However, there's many people who know of it and what great work this organization is doing. But Marlene, can you tell us what's the main reason for the Indiana Latino Institute?

Marlene Dotson:           Yes, as you mentioned earlier, Kofi, that our Latino population has evolved over the years. And when I came in early 1992, and then late 1990s, we see very few Latinos, very few. And they-- but also we experience the coming of new immigrants to the city, and some other pockets of the state. But also we experienced that we have first and second generation in the northern part of Indiana. So the, the focus was more concentrating in the northern part of Indiana and little bit of Central Indiana. So there was very few, I mean, when I walk in the streets, I was one of those few. The new kid on the block. And there's very few, and looking for people that look like me, and they were very few. And so, excited to see one or two. You walk in the malls, you walk in stores and you barely see Latinos. But over the years we see continued to grow, gradually, gradually more immigrants. So when a new population arrives, and this is not just for Latino community, just happens it is for any immigrant or newcomers to a city, it comes with opportunities, but also challenges. It calls to the, the, the cities for "are we prepared for these newcomers?" We prepare in terms of services, in terms of jobs, these companies are ready for the new workforce. And so, going to your question, answering your question, why the Indiana Latino Institute? So the Indiana Latino Institute born, as a result of an assessment. They based on the needs of the Latino community in early 2000. We born first with our initial seed funding to address tobacco prevention and cessation. This was more focused towards system changes across the state where with government, in community, in great health care providers and tried to raise, and raise awareness about the impact of tobacco in the Latino population. And in over the years, that was in 2000, in 2000, as we move forward in 2006, we continued to observe to the hospitals. We see them, now the schools, we see that they were a need for access to higher education. Our, our new younger comers, Latinos. Because there were challenges because cultural, financial barriers, and also we have also a population that, was in a way, some call diverse. There were some that they are US citizens. There were some undocumented, so they have a different type of legal status. So all that presents a challenge for this community and how to access. We know this, that our Latino population, especially those, that they were graduating from high school, they were not qualifying for federal financial aid. They were not, they would, they would not have enough resources to knowledge, to how to access to the resources, to access, to access to financial support, or coaching, the mentorship of what it looks like to go to a higher ed in America. So the institute took the lead in this effort, and so we open our program, our first program, which it calls the college coaching and education to help us students who are graduating from high school to access, provide them resources. Good internships, provide them with scholarships. Yes, in a small scale, in over the years, that program continue to grow. But moving forward, it was more than the, the direct service. It was the, the presence, and the voice, of the Latino, at the table. So we needed to have the voice at the state level in terms of legislation, in terms of connecting with corporate, in terms of working with our community organizations. How we can bring, can talk about the Latino agenda, how we can put that agenda on the table? So who was going to do this? So we have a conversation with many leaders that are in the community, and this was basically charged to the Indiana Latino Institute. So the Indiana Latino Institute took the lead into bringing these, the, the, the Latino issues front and center. And to bring this, in many conversations, whether it was like I mentioned, through the legislation, advocacy with higher education institutions, and bringing to the round table conversations with presence of the universities, how this institution needs to improve, be prepare, equip. Because, now today, while we see more the increase of access to higher education, the retention becomes an issue. So all those things took place.

Kofi Darku:                   Wow, that's a great story, and, in that story as you kind of started in the 1990s when not so many Latinos around, but then obviously you start to see things change by the early 2000s. And at the same time, there's some data review that's really, you know, reflecting what you're starting to see, which is there's a need for us to more systematically think of this. This group, I find it really interesting because the Morales Group started in 2003. Its strength was focused on the Latino population, but then also in your story, you're saying in the early 2000s, you start to see a lot more other populations starting to gain numbers in Indianapolis too, and before 2010 Morales Group has shifted a lot to the immigrant refugee population. So that's a great story in terms of how the Morales Group has become a champion for not only the Latino population, but immigrant and refugee as well. But I'm curious about how you came to your role as president and CEO, as you were someone who was witnessing this in the early 1990s and now you get to be at the table to help make some of these very important decisions for the community. How did you get into your role, Marlene?

Marlene Dotson:           Yes, it's a good question. Prior to the Indiana Latino Institute, I was working at the seventh district of the US congressional office here in Indianapolis. And I was already well connected with community leaders, and the opportunity came to join this great organization. And so I joined in 2011. And since then, the organization has made great changes, and we rebranded in 2013, and we refocus our work, and we, our mission, our purpose as organization, taking the lead in aspects of health, education and leadership. And now our mission is to improve health and advance education for the Indiana Latino community through a statewide advocacy research in cultural responsive programs. So basically we have three core elements in our work: education, health, and leadership.

Kofi Darku:                   I love the emphasis on education. That was also mentioned frequently when you were talking about the, the goal and the main purpose of the Indiana Latino Institute. Let's, let's dig into how education does happen and learn more about Rachel Santos. Rachel, you are the education program coordinator for ILI, correct?

Rachel Santos:              Yes.

Kofi Darku:                   Can you tell us your story in terms of how you came to work for this awesome organization?

Rachel Santos:              Of course. So before being at ILI, I worked for the city of Indianapolis in the Office of Education Innovation. So, but I think it goes deeper than just career path. I grew up in northwest Indiana, so I think everything that you're talking about, how the Latino community has changed in decades -- I can relate to that cause my family was one of those families here in the '50s. My family all worked in the steel mills up in northwest Indiana. So I kind of was blinded to -- like, I've seen diversity growing up. You know, I've seen a large Latino population. And it wasn't until I got to college that I realized that I was kind of fortunate. Not a lot of people of, Latino descent, grow up with people who look like them. So when I interviewed with Marlene, we kind of had a lot of conversations about the work that I would be doing, and I kind of felt like I owed it to the Latino community to come do this work. So I work primarily with college students. And I help them, really not only help them get their degrees, but help them understand that a career is possible for them. And you know, internships are possible for them. And you know, I work with students who, internships, it's not that they're not important to them, but they, they want to be working full time. They don't want to take internships. So I have to almost try to change this mentality that you can put some hours into an internship because it's going to be better for you in the long run.

Kofi Darku:                   Well that, that's a really interesting point, in terms of you have a student population that as they are at the postsecondary level, they're still valuing the need, or they're still responding to the need to have some type of employment to help make sure they take care of some of their family goals. So, it's true, that's going to impact your orientation on internships. So I'm happy that you're there to help explain the value of that internship.

Rachel Santos:              Yeah. And you know, it's, it takes time to sit down with students and talk about, "okay, you need to be working full time. What, where does this come from? And how can we, you know, get a part time position and maybe some more scholarships?" So having those conversations with students, and you know, letting them just kind of explain why they feel like they need to be working full time every hour, and in class, you know, for 16 credit hours. I think just giving them that outlet, it's a, you know, a good start.

Kofi Darku:                   So you mentioned the three pillars that ILI focuses on. We just went in depth with education. So happy to have the program coordinator for education on the show to help us go there. In your brief summary about the existence of ILI, the data in the early 2000s where there was a focus on tobacco and the impact it's making, that seems to point towards health and that health focus. Can you speak to why else there is such great emphasis on health for the Latino population?

Marlene Dotson:           Yes. While we currently are now addressing that diabetes is one of the highest problems in the Latino community. And right now our board is currently evaluating for addressing this problem. It's part of what currently we're working in our business plan and our revisions of our business plan and strategic plan. So that's something that we, we are discussing, having addressed that with different healthcare providers, and commissions and so on.

Kofi Darku:                   This is awesome. I love that there's some specific strategies happening to advance these pillars, and that barely being in existence for 15 years, you have some really complex and sophisticated ways of addressing these things. That does bring us to the specific focus that I really wanted us to touch on in this episode. Your work with leadership. Education is very important, health is very important, but you also have the Indiana Latino Leadership Circle and I think it must be emphasized. Also, that as you said, this organization came into existence, there was a greater concentration of Latinos on the northern half of Indiana as opposed to the southern half. Obviously things are changing, but I'm sure there's still more populations of Latinos between the northwest part of Indiana, the Region, and Indianapolis, as opposed to Indianapolis and further south. But you're a statewide entity. How do you go about preparing leadership, and can you tell us some more details about the Indiana Latino Leadership Circle?

Marlene Dotson:           Yep, sure. Over the years, community leaders in not only within ILI, but outside ILI, have the conversation on how we can have, see representation and see a voice of the Latino community in all sectors. And in this has been over a year, conversations, and we need to do something. Everybody, you know, we call leaders and presidents, from the banking, different corporates, in government. They were just having that conversation. So finally, two, three years ago, we have a brainstorm meeting. And came community leaders from different, you know, sectors, and have proposed the idea to create a program that will cultivate the next generation of Latino leadership. And last, after this brainstorm conversation, last year, the whole team, that they decide to give this project to ILI, to lead this new project which is the Indiana Latino Leadership Circle. And we develop a curriculum that will prepare young professionals, already professionals that happen to be Latinos, that are under forty, already have, you know, work, school degrees and work experience. They are in different work environments to join this class. And our purpose of this, this group, now this, this program, is to identify a mentor and emerging Latino leaders by connecting them with respected influential community leaders, and strategic empowerment opportunities. We have seven areas that the, the, this class are, connected to: is high profile mentorship, empowerment opportunities, leadership training, civic engagement, strategic networking, think tank break sessions, and community service opportunities.

Kofi Darku:                   Well that's thorough. I really love that breadth that you're trying to take there with these mentees to get them prepared.

Marlene Dotson:           Yes. Yes. And the program is great. So the class meets every month, and they have, have exposed to corporate, nonprofit, government. And actually they are traveling to DC in September and they will be exposed to federal government and connected with global and visit some embassies, foreign embassies in DC. So the idea is to prepare, is prepare these young professionals in how they can be the best of the best when you represent them in their sectors. And not just that, but also be a voice. We, now that we have new generations, that they are-- this is, this is the-- 2019 is so different than 1990.

Kofi Darku:                   Yes.

Marlene Dotson:           It's so different. We have already new generations that are more immersed, they're born here. They're, systematically, they are well-connected with the system. Things that they are there, their power within them is, so we are just providing those opportunities to build and cultivate the new Latino leadership.

Kofi Darku:                   Yes. Trying to make sure that they're the best of the best and, and feel comfortable sharing their voice. Once they do that in their sector. It's not easy to do. I like that the ambition is there. But can we talk about how your programming plays a role in, in making it more likely that your, your mentees and those participating in the Leadership Circle actually can fulfill and know that they can achieve this goal that you have set out for them?

Rachel Santos:              Yeah, we believe that this program, the Leadership Circle, the Latino Leadership Circle really brings our education programming full circle. You know, we start with high school students in our college coaching program, and we work with college students on, like I mentioned, internships and scholarships. But what happens when we have, you know, all of these engineers and lawyers and doctors coming out of, you know, higher ed and they're in the workforce. There still needs to be more support. There's a ton of leadership programs in the city and the state, but there are no programs that focus on Latino leadership. And as a Latina, I can tell you it's not necessarily comfortable going into the workforce. I think it's easy to be naive and think, "well, I got my education, I got my degrees, I'm going to get hired, I'm going to be awesome." And you do need a little bit more support.

Kofi Darku:                   Yes, there is, there is definitely a cultural filter that comes into play when you are transitioning into the work world. There are rules there, that if you're not aware of them, you may not find the opportunities that everyone is seeking.

Rachel Santos:              And they, you know, they might not have parents who are in their careers the way that they are, that you know, so they might have not grown up around it. And I think that's something that also needs to be considered. While there is, you know, there could be some sort of mentorship within their own families, there's not the mentorship from professionals that is needed to help people succeed.

Kofi Darku:                   So you start at the high school level, and then you also stay engaged with them when they're at the college level. You have an internship program you've touched on. Can you speak to how many interns you're, you're serving and, and how you go about recruiting throughout the state for this program?

Rachel Santos:              Absolutely. So we start with, Marlene likes to call them, our babies. We have the first year experience program, which are for incoming freshmen, and we placed five students at different organizations across the city, or state, if possible. And then we have our internship program, which is for sophomores to seniors. It's for students to come in and also be placed across the city or state. And they complete 200 hours at an organization, and then they get a scholarship for their time. Same with the babies. They get a scholarship for their time as well. And then we have our fellowship, which are senior level, higher level students with higher GPAs, killer resumes. And we place them with organizations who actually have to pay to have the students. So we have a student placed at Cummins right now, which we're really excited about. We have a fellow placed at IU Health in Frankfort, Indiana. And then we have a student placed at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, those three fellows.

Kofi Darku:                   That's awesome.

Rachel Santos:              Those are really life-changing fellowships for those students. And we're really proud of that.

Kofi Darku:                   Wow. Wow. These are some really deep resources. Go ahead.

Rachel Santos:              Oh, sorry. We do also have the internship through partnership program, which is, apart from our programming, where we help organizations recruit for their existing internships. So, for example, Lilly, we recently had three students placed there for their summer experience program. And that is where they reach out to us and say, "can you send us resumes?" And we kind of recruit our students, we work on their resumes, we do mock interviews. And we really make them the best candidate possible to get selected.

Kofi Darku:                   Yes, this is, this is good. And I mean, even the companies you mentioned, these are some phenomenal companies that are reaching out. And I'm very grateful to hear that this is happening because too, one of the larger goals, if you're going to start to make sure there's more Latino representation at these various levels of civic life and especially in the employment world, having companies like this reach out to you and for you to build those relationships with them, will definitely assist that effort.

Marlene Dotson:           And definitely we are very happy in that to have companies, the community support, even the Leadership Circle, because the nine participants that we currently have come from Lilly, the Indianapolis Airport, we have, IU Health, Ivy Tech, Marian University, a [inaudible] services I believe. Yeah. That's the new company that just-- and so we, am I forgetting anyone else?

Rachel Santos:              Huntington.

Marlene Dotson:           Huntington Bank. Yes. So we have companies that help support their employees, which that's where I encourage employers to support their employees, to give opportunities for growing, for development, and now we're here. We, that-- our new application is coming soon for class 2020. We will be releasing on our website soon.

Kofi Darku:                   That's awesome.

Rachel Santos:              Might I add, that also helps strengthen our programming because, you know, so this past summer I was looking for places to place interns, and I have these great professionals who are coming and doing these sessions. So I just went up to, you know, at the airport, our individual from the airport, Abel, and I said, "can I have your card? You know, I have a student who really wants to work there." And I went up to Carrier and I was like, which is Helmuth, and I said, "can I have your card? I really want to, you know, place a student there." And they were all so open to help. And I even had an individual take two of our students to get lunch and talk about the interview process and how they can strengthen that. So it's been a great resource.

Marlene Dotson:           We are mentoring, we're having mentors, you know, already with past experience, in the Latino community, to mentor these, the Latino Leadership Circle. And this class will become mentors for our younger ones, for our fellows, our interns, our other-- I call them babies, but that is the freshmans. So it's the, this still fact right, that the impact goes beyond. Just one person impacts the community as a whole.

Kofi Darku:                   Yeah. I love the momentum you're building. And it's true. As you're getting these, these different levels of preparation, it helps amplify the, the amount of, sort of, impact you're gonna make out in the community. And I'm really happy to hear-- I just want to go back a little bit. You mentioned that the application for the 2020 class, it's coming up. So I just want to make sure everyone heard that. If you have some leaders in mind, from the Latino community, that you think are a good fit for this program, you need to really consider talking to them about applying. And then also, I don't know how you recruit statewide for your internship programs, but I do recall in a conversation we had a little bit before this recording, that there was a Latino education summit coming up. Can you speak more to that?

Rachel Santos:              Yes, absolutely. So this November we will be having two Latino education summits. Our goal is to reach 2,500 students. This year we're doing two events, one in Indianapolis and one in South Bend. And this is because we kind of outgrew our Indianapolis event. So last year, we had over 1,700 students, high school students, come to the city to talk about financial aid, first year experience, scholarships, and also see a full room of other Latino students from across the state. I think that's just a beautiful thing. So this year it will be November 14th, will be the South Bend event at the Century Center and November 21st will be the Indianapolis event at the JW Marriott.

Kofi Darku:                   That is excellent.

Rachel Santos:              Yes. And if anyone's interested or if you know any high school teachers, and you want to contact me, you can reach me at r s a n t o s@IndianaLatinoInstitute.org and I'd be happy to talk.

Kofi Darku:                   I often say the proof is in the pudding, and I mean we're hearing about some great programming here, and we know that oftentimes, people learn from the stories of others or they realize they are able to do things as they hear other people's stories. They find inspiration from them. It's something to that effect. Anyway, I think we should bring on a couple of your participants in the Leadership Circle and see if that proof is actually there in the pudding. You know, I'm sure they have some interesting things to share. I'm going to try and see if they're up for that task. So I'm really excited to talk about that in a second episode. Also want to make sure that, thank you Rachel for sharing your information. But Marlene, if someone would like to learn more about ILI and what the Indiana Latino Institute is up to or how they can be a part of this, how could they get in contact?

Marlene Dotson:           There is three ways. They can connect with our website is the www.IndianaLatinoInstitute.org or they can call our office (317) 472-1055 or they can send me an email. It's mdotson@IndianaLatinoInstitute.org. We, we are having exciting programs for our Latino community, but also opportunities to partnership with all sectors, and opportunities for volunteer, opportunities for invest in the community, and giving back to the community. In one way, we're celebrating the Hispanic Heritage Month on September 5th, our guest speaker is going to be Ana Navarro. She's a CNN political strategist. So she will be speaking. Our event, we're expecting, expecting over 1,000 guests at the JW. This is the largest, one of the largest Latino gatherings to celebrate the contributions of Latinos. Because not always we talk about need, but also we talk about how the Latinos are impacting not only Indiana but the country as a whole.

Kofi Darku:                   That's right. That's right. And as I've teased, there's going to be a second episode, but it's true, what Marlene is referencing, is there are so many things that are going well for the country and how the Latino population has grown and already an integral part of our workforce. We're trying to make sure that the next generations are going to achieve even greater things. So please check out this next episode and thank you so much Marlene and Rachel for being on. And I look forward to seeing what you have to say when you have those mentees here with you.

Marlene Dotson:           Thank you.

Rachel Santos:              Thank you.

Kofi Darku:                   Another hot show where we're really digging into some of the programs that are really impacting Indiana, the Indiana Latino Institute. A first takeaway: the role that they have carved out for themselves in taking the lead in health education and leadership for the Latino community, I think is outstanding. Obviously there is a need. There has been a need, and I'm glad they're stepping up comfortably to address it. A second takeaway is that sometimes if there is no understanding of a cultural filter and lack of professional mentorship is, over a community, that's preventing the Latino young professionals from successfully plugging into the workforce. With there being that barrier or lack of those resources or understandings, here we have the ILI firmly stepping up again to try and make sure this doesn't prevent them from plugging in successfully. And last point, there's a part two of this episode, and in part two we're going to exhibit how ILI is preparing the next generation for being at the table and raising their voice. What a great episode. What a great episode to come. Please stay engaged with the conversation by checking out the Skill Up Build Up podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.