April 4, 2018
Abigail Golden VazquezAbigail Golden-Vazquez, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Latinos and Society ProgramLatinos comprise one in four students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade and, as such, they will have a direct and lasting impact on the nation’s democracy and prosperity. This is why it’s absolutely necessary to foster a culture of civic participation among Latino students inside and outside of school. Research shows that exposure to civic engagement at an early age can create lasting habits of civic participation throughout a person’s life. Edu-Futuro is an organization that seeks to engage Latino youth in civic activity for a better American future, a vision that aligns with the goals of its newest grantor, the Latino Engagement and Achievement Fund (LEAF).

Last spring, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia launched the LEAF endowment as a strategic, permanent investment in promoting and investing in civic engagement, education, economic opportunity, and the overall prosperity of Latinos in the Metro DC region. LEAF’s investment in Northern Virginia’s 2.5 million Latinos supports a healthier and stronger democracy and community for all living in the area.

Inspired by the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program report Unlocking Latino Civic Potential: 2016 and Beyond, co-founders Paty Funegra of La Cocina VA and Diana Katz of Giving Circle of Hope created LEAF to provided needed and lasting investments in Latino civic culture which suffers from notorious underfunding. The report, which resulted from a collaborative convening among 28 diverse leaders in the civic space, focused on four key recommendations for increasing Latino civic engagement—voter engagement, immigrant integration and naturalization, civic education, and leadership development. Among the challenges raised in the report were insufficient research and data collection on Latino civic participation and chronic underinvestment in Latino organizations that engage the community.

Edu-Futuro, which was awarded LEAF’s inaugural grant, embodies the vision of the report and LEAF by promoting a more civically engaged Latino community. Edu-Futuro's plan to develop a civic education curriculum and put it in schools that don’t currently have one, brings value far beyond the one-time investment that they received. The curriculum will not only have ongoing use in schools where Edu-Futuro currently operates, but also those in Fairfax, Arlington, and other Northern VA counties where the organization will soon expand. The inclusion of parents in their programming also offers the potential to expand the investment across generations to ignite civic culture in entire families.

LEAF’s investment in Edu-Futuro signals an exciting new phase of community development in Northern Virginia. “It is wonderful to see LEAF fulfilling the promise to support the Latino community, and we look forward to working with future applicants and learning how we can assist them,” stated Paty Funegra. The endowed fund means sustainable impact for Latinos in Northern Virginia for years to come.

To learn more about the Aspen Institute please visit www.aspeninstitute.org/.