I recently spoke to local Hispanic business leaders and challenged them to create opportunities for educating the Latino population, which lags behind all other ethnic groups.
Today, Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S. at 47 million individuals and growing. More than half of Maryland’s 66,000 new residents last year were Hispanic. In Virginia, Hispanics represented a third of the state’s 113,000 new residents. Yet statewide, the high school dropout rate among Hispanics last year was 19.1 percent, compared with 11.3 percent for blacks and 5.6 percent for whites, according to the Virginia Department of Education for on-time graduation.
Washington, D.C. is the fourth largest economy in the United States, with the nation’s most educated workforce and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. But Hispanics are falling through the cracks because of their limited education. The DC area is home to more than 1,000 international firms from 50 countries and it is growing. The Washington Business Journal reported that Hispanic business ownership has surged to 54% in the D.C. area.
Today firms are dedicated to recruiting an educated workforce from a diverse population that truly understands its customers, clients, members and employees to ensure its success. Educated Latinos are in high demand for corporations.
At the School of Management, 9% of the total enrollment is Hispanic. Among declared majors, the largest percentage of Hispanic students are majoring in management and accounting.
Nationally for college students, graduation rates run 15-20 percentage points lower for black and Hispanic students compared to whites. But Mason is among only 11 institutions nationwide with little or no disparity in graduation rates between black and Hispanic students and white students. At Mason, 57 percent of whites graduate, compared with 59 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of blacks.
The Hispanic population is growing and we have a great opportunity to take advantage of the resources available to us, and to impact the communities where we live. Our Hispanic students and entrepreneurs are lucky because you are starting your career in a time when opportunities abound for the Latino community. New funds are being collected for support programs. New enterprises are on the rise, and we live in an area where great resources are at our disposal.
Our region is growing each day. And we must all do our part in helping the economy and continue this growth. Another report cited that 14.7% of the total US population is now Hispanic with a market size of 43 million and a buying power of $750 billion. These are staggering statistics. We, as a group, have great power in making a strong impact on the economy. We can help bolster this recession.
And so I encourage you to start your own businesses and help become part of the solution for economic growth. Take on more risk and more initiative to create growth and jobs for the future. Use your individual experiences of diversity to build bridges to other cultures, and share your knowledge. Encourage education in the youth of our communities.
Remember there are also now many entrepreneurs or business leaders that are role models in the Latin community: Indra Nooyi (CEO, PepsiCo), Jacqueline Hernández (COO, Telemundo) or he’s the next Antonio Perez (CEO, Eastman Kodak) or Cesar Conde (President, Univision Networks).
And never forget what brought each of us to the US. What brought your parents or your grandparents? Was it for freedom or opportunities? The US is a nation of immigrants, made stronger by the differences we hold. And we should stand together and celebrate these differences and share our collective wisdom. We should remember that our Hispanic community is about building relationships and helping each other. Never forget to speak with pride for your heritage.