By Kyeland Jackson —

More than 100 city leaders, students and citizens gathered to learn about the status and future of Latinos in Louisville March 5.

Despite October’s Sombrerogate and the diversity talks that followed, President James Ramsey did not attend.

Director for Research and Statistics at Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Ron Crouch started the seminar with a statistical perspective.

Based on falling fertility rates, Crouch said the US could not sustain its numbers without a flowing immigrant population. That population has contributed to a majority minority in Louisville with a political influence. “The lowest voting percentage in the United States is naturalized citizens,” Crouch said.

“You can be the richest billionaire or you could be somebody that’s just scratching to get by. But when you go to the ballot box, your vote counts the same. Don’t squander that right to vote,” Crouch** said.

While economic growth has opened opportunities for immigrants and minorities, those jobs don’t always pay well. “This is what you need to survive in Jefferson County: If you’re an adult, one single mother with two kids, you need to make 21.59 an hour,” Crouch said.

“We’ve got a serious issue. We’ve got to pay people enough to make a living if we want to be able to be a successful society.”

Mayor Greg Fischer also spoke on the Latino community’s influence. “Our (Louisville’s) Latino population is certainly large enough in this city to have a dramatic impact,” Fischer said.

Law professor Enid Trucias-Hayes, backed some of Crouch’s claims. Trucias-Hayes said 47 percent of Blacks and Latinos under 17 in Kentucky live in poverty. Whites under 17 compared at 25 percent.

Trucias-Hayes said 70 percent of Latinos in the U.S. speak only English or very good English in their homes. In Kentucky Latino population, 61 percent are native born, nine percent are foreign born and 20 percent are undocumented.

The meeting took an educational viewpoint as Marco Munoz, the director of priority schools for JCPS, spoke. Munoz said that enrollment for Hispanics has grown three percent every five years while suspension rates have dropped.

Issues still exist among students and teachers. Munoz pointed out the small rates of diversity teachers in JCPS schools. “How is it possible that we can have only one percent of the teaching work force in JCPS be Latinos,” Munoz said. “We’ve got to get our act together right now.”

The lack of diversity could mean fewer role models for diverse students, which Munoz said may cause lower academic performance. He remained positive and said something good can be done by seeing where the statistics are pointing.

Attendees suggested opportunities and priorities for Latinos at the end of the meeting. The suggestions ranged from cultural competence training to more scholarship opportunity.

“I think students should know that the city is changing,” junior Laticia Miguel said. “The Latino Hispanic community is not only growing in the city, but also in the University of Louisville. We get more Latino Hispanic enrollments every year.”

Freshman volunteer Ailen Sanchez said this is a great opportunity for Latinos.”The Latino community needs to feel empowered and that they could be successful,” Sanchez said. “Even though we’re immigrants in this country, and we are bilingual and we don’t speak English, we can (still) succeed and help others.”

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens attended and plans to apply what the attendees discussed to her schools.

“We stand ready to collaborate with the community,” Hargens said. “This is a doable goal….JCPS is ready to be in the room working together to make sure our students are prepared.”

While the attendee turnout was large, Miguel hopes more U of L student attend next time. “For the future I would love more U of L students to get involved whether they be Hispanic, Latino or just allies that want to help out create change in the university and the city.” Miguel said.

Photo by Kyeland Jackson / The Louisville Cardinal