#VLPowerSummit and the #VLInnovatorsChallenge: Voto Latino's President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar Shares the Development of the Tech Contest [Interview] [Part II]
This is a continuation of #VLPowerSummit: Voto Latino Launched it's Four-City Leadership Tour in NYC on April 11-12, Exclusive Interview with CEO Maria Teresa Kumar [Part I] and #VLPowerSummit and the #VLInnovatorsChallenge: Voto Latino's President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar Shares the Development of the Tech Contest [Interview] [Part II]
The Voto Latino Power Summit Badges -- part of their new badge system -- can be displayed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other websites, and they reinforce curricula designed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab and pros in Latino Millennial leadership.
The VL Innovators Challenge, the organization's tech contest, was created in the same vein, meant to challenge Millennials to not only learn outside of the classroom, but to create outside of the classroom... and to think outside of the box. With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, and in partnership with HASTAC, Voto Latino will award a total of $500,000 in grants to the best 10-15 proposed projects. Examples of new technology that's expected to be unearthed include, but certainly aren't limited to, mobile apps, Mac apps, PC programs, and/or Google Chrome apps, advocacy websites, social networking platforms, community internet kiosks, low-cost handheld devices, online badging systems and/or community internet access hotspots. New tech tools could also solve or address issues in the community: expanding voting access for eligible Latinos; assisting undocumented families, enabling access to quality and affordable education and healthcare; and/or combating crime in the Latino community.
When Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar was asked how the idea for the tech challenge was composed, she laughed before speaking and then forked her hair back with spread fingers. "Honestly, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to help Voto Latino really make a statement in the community... it was our ten year anniversary... it's going to sound silly, but I was literally in the shower, thinking about it... and then I stepped out of the shower and thought, 'Why don't we do in incubation?' I called up my deputy, which is Michelle Minguez, and I called her up at 2 in the morning, and said, 'Michelle, why don't we do a contest... where we can basically incubate big ideas!' And, she was like, 'Where are you going to find the funding?' And, I said, 'I have no idea.' I'm not kidding... and, a week later, I met the head of the MacAuthur Foundation, Connie Yowell, Director of Educational programs... I gave her the idea. Not only was she willing to support of the Power Summit, but she said, 'What if we helped fund the contest?' And, it wasn't until three months ago that we realized the prizes were going to be a half million dollars."
"We're not going to play around... we're going to give you big ideas, we're going to give you a space to think of your big ideas... and we're going to give you up to $500,000 in grants. And, we're doing this in partnership with Google, so that you can actually take your idea to Google for a week, and learn about the process. You're going to get spoiled, so there's no reason for you to fail."
Kumar shared that some people have thought of apps that can do medical translations; enabling children to visit doctor's offices and easily translate for their parents or physicians. The contest requires that contestants think big, and act smart.
No tech experience is required when applying, as experts and veterans from Google and similar organizations will help realize the ideas composed by Millennials. The mission is to cultivate a pool of Latino tech talent involves drawing on the ideas of the masses, and to encourage Latinos toward careers in technology and sciences. There are no ideas that are too big or too small; contestants encouraged to brainstorm any idea, at any level, as long as they have a tech component, and as long as it benefits the Latino community-at-large.
The competition is for individuals between the ages of 18 and 34, and contestants are not required to be Latino. Undocumented Millennials may act as a collaborator or secondary support, but they can't be the primary applicant for the challenge.
According to research presented by Voto Latino, Latinos currently make up a slight 7% of U.S. tech workers; and studies reveal that there is a definite correlation between careers in Silicon Valley and early exposure to math, technology and science. In 2013, Latinos and African Americans made up a mere 9 percent of computer science and engineering college graduates. Nationwide, White and Asian students are 4x more likely to take AP Math and Science than their Black and Latino peers.
The VL Innovator Challenge is a division of the Connected Learning movement, which is an educational initiative to make learning relevant to everyone; and reiterates the idea that technology, entrepreneurship, and creativity are closely tied to the Latino experience. The movement and the challenge also work to tackle the lack of Latino presence in Silicon Valley, and to encouraging Latinos to become fluent in HTML.
The one-on-one interview between Latin Post and CEO and President of Voto Latino Maria Teresa Kumar, at the opening reception for the Voto Latino’s Power Summit, was followed by quick conversation with ambitious strangers. Millennials, who smelled success -and hoped to acquire a bit for themselves- shook hands with business leaders; many of the Millennials already working toward being leaders of tomorrow.
Then, the herd of youngsters were ushered in front of makeshift stage, and participants were able to witness powerful speeches offered by Wilmer Valderrama, Rosario Dawson and Kumar –each having reflections and thoughtful words to share about their beginnings within the organization, and how personal and professional relationships manifested with one other.
Dawson shared stories about her connecting with Valderrama after being introduced by her mother; Kumar spoke about being called by Dawson, and making the precarious move back home so that she could head a newly-minted nonprofit; and Valderrama spoke fondly of both women… his words powerful enough that nearly moved Dawson to tears. The three spearheads then thanked everyone in their organization for their continuous contributions, and gave a shoot-out to those who’ve helped the organization to not only engineer change, but to embolden the community to be vocal about immigration, health, status, and any other pressing concern that has afflicted the Latino community within the last number of decades.
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