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Latino leadership expands on Human Relations Commission

By La Prensa Staff


January 20, 2020: A Latina now leads a committee within the fledgling Toledo Human Relations Commission, while another Latino recently joined the panel meant to ensure minorities, youth, and the disenfranchised have a voice. Their Latino heritage is the driving force behind their efforts.


Christina Rodríguez, executive director of Mom’s House, is the commission’s chairperson of the MLK Jr. Unity Day celebration, now in its 19th year, a cooperative effort between the City of Toledo and University of Toledo. Monday’s event drew hundreds to the celebration, along with dozens of high school and adult volunteers to an event that included a first-ever service project. [In La Prensa photo, Ms. Rodríguez is seen with students that attended Unity Day at UT.]


“I’ve been involved with a lot of community work throughout the years. However, when this opportunity arose, I thought it was a chance to have a bigger impact, a little more breadth to my impact in the community in a different way,” said Ms. Rodríguez. “This is a way to represent not just myself, the city, but to represent my culture and the Latino people in the community.”


José Rosales, 38, quietly received appointment to the commission at the end of 2019. Rosales is a career development coordinator at Toledo Public Schools and a former academic advisor at the University of Toledo. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in education, both from UT. The Waite High School graduate is presently a doctoral candidate in studies theory and social foundations.


“I saw a need for some support and leadership at the youth empowerment and engagement level,” he said. “As a professional and member of this community, the work is never ending and that is what appealed to me.”


Both leaders are focused on a better future for Latino youth in metro Toledo. Rosales has only attended one commission meeting so far, but he was energized when he saw the diverse backgrounds and talents of the 13-member commission and what the group wants to do after just one year of existence.


“It’s critical. We have a great demographic and a large percentage of our demographic here in the city of Toledo that is Latino and I think it’s important for us to have a voice at the table and a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making,” said Ms. Rodríguez. “This is an opportunity to have our voice heard.”


“We were able to understand and articulate the youth of this city, somehow or for some reason, are no longer able to dream or to dream big,” he said. “As a kid, we were always able to dream big, whether we wanted to be an astronaut or a professional athlete or doctor. I always remember being able to dream big. I want to make sure that, not only the youth at the school I work at, but the youth of the entire community are still able to dream, still able to be afforded resources and opportunities, to never stop dreaming (about what they want to do in life).”


Rosales believes his background working with youth eighth grade through high school allows him “to have a true understanding of what their needs are.” Just as important to him is being a mentor to Latino youth and someone successful who looks just like them.


“Consciously or subconsciously, it’s always at the forefront of my efforts, because what I want to be able to do as a Latino male is to be able to relate to the students that can identify or to see themselves in me,” he said. “So, I want them to be able to understand they can be able to identify with Mr. Rosales because number one, I’m Latino, or two, I’m from Toledo, or whatever it may be. When they can see themselves, not just in me, but any of the others on the commission, I think that’s huge, because we don’t always see that diversity and inclusion helps us address our needs or makes an impact across the entire community.as a whole.”


Ms. Rodríguez emphasized a need for younger Latino leaders to take a step forward as she and Rosales are doing. She called it a “great time for a transition,” as Toledo sees an economic rebirth and new energy and ideas are needed to keep the momentum of opportunity going for all segments of the city, including the Latino community.


“It’s also an honor, because the two of us are younger and we’re coming into this position with some different experiences. We’re also coming into this position with a level of empathy, a level of really understanding our history and where we’ve come from and how that translates into the future, not just for us, but for the children of our community who will be the future leaders,” said Ms. Rodríguez. “So, it’s important for them to see themselves in positions of leadership, so when they see us up there, see us on the commission, they can see themselves up there and I think that’s critical for young people.”


“We have other professionals in the community who have stepped up to volunteer and serve,” he noted. “These are professionals from the library, entrepreneurs, educators, and I really have to take my hat off to the leadership of Toledo for creating this initiative because it takes a village of individuals who are passionate about what they are doing. I’m excited and the commission members are excited to find out what the youth need and how we can do that as a commission.”


One of the first visible signs of making a difference involved a large turnout for the MLK Jr. Unity Day celebration, along with dozens of high school students who volunteered to set up and tear down the event, as well as assist with a community service project that led to the creation of 200 “cold weather kits” (coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and socks) for children in the care and custody of Lucas County Children Services. Both events were held at Savage Arena on the UT campus.


“(This is) wonderful. We were able to see people from all walks of life come through these doors and the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was unfolding today and it feels good to know we were part of that planning process,” said Ms. Rodríguez. “It was also important for us to talk about the call to action that Dr. King always challenged us with and we thought why not take that and actually do something with our hands.”




Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/21/20 10:57:17 -0800.




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