Although Voto Latino is in its 11th year, the nonprofit celebrated its 10-year anniversary Wednesday and showcased Latino innovators in technology.

From Washington, D.C., Voto Latino hosted an event to honor its mission to empower Latino millennials through media, technology and celebrities. The organization also announced the winners of its VL Innovators Challenge, a tech competition for millennials, an age group comprised of individuals between 18 and 34 years old.

For the VL Innovators Challenge, nine finalists were named for the opportunity to win a $500,000 grant to fund their tech concept, which ranged from mobile apps and an online course.

What made the nine Latino finalists standout in the competition?

"They're paying it forward," said Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar to Latin Post. "They have each had the experience that they faced, a problem, within their community, their family or themselves, and they applied a solution to that problem and that's what we need. We need people to stop griping and finding solutions to empower others and that's what made them standout."

Voto Latino's Artist Coalition Co-chair and actress America Ferrera told Latin Post the night is about "creating and amplifying the voices of leaders." Ferrera acknowledged the $500,000 prize is for young people with solutions and ideas on how to inspire their community.

"These young people are taking the mission of Voto Latino and owning it and taking it into their communities and that's the point," added Ferrera. "The hope is that it would be great in another 10 years there was no need for Voto Latino because we've empowered and inspired so many young people to become local leaders in their own communities and register every-single-one of their family members, friends and peers to show up and vote and to take responsibility for the engagement that exists in their community."

The $500,000 grant funding was split for seven Innovators Challenge finalists, which include:

A​lexis Chaet: Designing Culturally ­Competent Health IT for U.S. Latino Migrant Farmworker Population;

R​alph Vacca: Mi Mente, a mobile app to help adolescent Latinas to improve their mental and emotional health;

A​lberto A. Altamirano: Cityflag, a mobile app for Latinos to interact with local government;

M​ayra Jhoana Cruz: Mi Mentor, a mobile app for Latino students to connect with Latino health mentors;

E​utiquio "Tiq" Chapa: Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Development Program, a 6-week online course for Latino business owners;

M​arcos Perez: Julie Through the System, a mobile app and website for Latino youths to understand the juvenile system;

S​arahi Espinoza Salamanca: Dreamers Roadmap, a mobile app for undocumented students to find scholarships.

Kumar, Ferrera, and Artist Coalition Co-Chair and actor Wilmer Valderrama and Voto Latino Co-Founder Rosario Dawson spoke to guests about the 10 years of the nonprofit's progress, their vision of the U.S. and the need for tech innovators. The night also featured live music by Grammy-winning band La Santa Cecilia.


For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: