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La Liga de Las Americas

OCHLA outlines its intentions for funding from the state’s upcoming biennium budget.

By Travis Minnear, Special to La Prensa

At OCHLA’s April 20, 2007 meeting, commissioners discussed potential expenditures for the appropriations outlined by Gov. Ted Strickland. Commission Executive Director Ezra C. Escudero said the approximately $1.4 million allotted over the next two years is a welcome increase over past amounts, and will help target the group’s three cornerstone principles: Latino education, workforce and economic development, and maximizing Ohio’s emerging diversity.

OCHLA Director Ezra Escudero with ICHLA Director Amy Mendoza Photo by Travis Minnear


“What we did today was approve the commission’s internal plan for the funds,” Escudero said. “That was an important step to take, because it allows me to speak with authority when I meet with legislators to say, we have a very clear…plan of how this increase in funding is going to be used.”

Some OCHLA objectives for fiscal years 2008-09 include distributing community and economic grants and studying demographics for Ohio’s changing population, the director said. Specific initiatives include the establishment of Latino community advocacy network programs and Homeland Security workshops, to inform residents how to be prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies. Infrastructure needs, such as upgrades to the commission Web site, also will be undertaken.

“What we did was take what the governor proposed and we just filled in blanks and offered more detail,” Escudero said. “A lot of these pieces have been pieces that we’ve desperately needed for years. Pieces that we’re finally going to be able to put in place.”

Many of the programs and services outlined in OCHLA’s two-year budget came from the commission’s GROh-21 initiative, introduced earlier this year, Escudero said.

Along with a proposed growth in funding came a change in organizational structure. Commissioners unanimously supported an effort to redirect individual responsibilities to better reflect OCHLA’s three major ideals. An executive committee headed by President Humberto González and Commissioner Richard Romero, Vice President, will oversee all commission activities. Committees also will be created to tackle education, workforce and economic development and maximizing Ohio’s emerging diversity. Each commission member is involved in a committee and has specific duties to fulfill, Escudero said.

Commissioners also spent much of their meeting reviewing presentations from guests about needs and opportunities in Ohio’s Latino community:


Representatives from the Natural Bridge Group of Cincinnati addressed the commission about its program to strengthen language skills for students who need it most. NBG founder Richard Hempel said it is designed to be an extended online education option for students who do not speak English or need additional tutoring.

Ohio could become a pioneering model for this type of educational service, Hempel said. The pilot program here is called Latino Crossroads.

Three years ago, the organization partnered with “one of the largest education entities in the world” located in México, which has “bricks and mortar schools” in 19 countries, Hempel said. This joint effort was titled Edunet24.

“It’s not just an educational issue, it’s an economic competitiveness issue,” he said. A similar program has seen solid results and response in Boone County Ky., Hempel added.

Ruben Torres with an OSU football autographed by Anthony Gonzalez and Governor Strickland


Calling on the future of Columbus’ finest:

Lisa Ickes, a Columbus police officer, talked to OCHLA members about the need for more minority recruitment for the Columbus Division of Police. An increased effort “to address the lack of Hispanic and Latino officers,” will be utilized at the city’s upcoming Festival Latino on June 15 and 16, 2007, she said.

“This is a special requested, targeted event where we will be able to accept applications and have a test…hopefully of Hispanic officer candidates,” she said.

To be considered eligible for law enforcement service, applicants must be at least 20 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED, be U.S. citizens and have a valid driver’s license.

Sharing vision and ideas:

Amy Mendoza, executive director for the Indiana Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, visited OCHLA’s regular meeting to talk about progress being made in the two states and how the commissions can benefit each other.

It has been a “privilege and an honor” to work with Escudero to address needs between the two commissions, the ICHLA director said. Indiana’s commission has only been in existence since 2003, so additional insight and guidance on issues facing Latinos has been helpful.

Indiana and Ohio share many of the same dilemmas with Latino affairs, Mendoza said. Similarly to Ohio, ICHLA has three main objectives:

• Work toward economic, educational and social equality.

• Identify strategies, evaluate and review programs, monitor state legislation and research challenges and opportunities affecting Latinos in the state.

• Make recommends solutions to Indiana’s governor and state legislature.

“We’re not able to lobby, but our goal really is to be there to provide information (and) take direction from the governor or legislature, if they would like us to perform surveys, research projects, etcetera,” Mendoza said.

The Latino population in Indiana is small but growing quickly, she said. Three of the largest issues Indiana Latinos deal with obtaining driver’s licenses, funding for English as a second language in schools, and home ownership, Mendoza noted.

Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Recognition Dinner

The annual OCHLA Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Recognition Dinner capped the day’s festivities, with an appearance and speech by Gov. Ted Strickland, taking place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus.

Omar Ruiz, Sports Anchor/Reporter for WCMH-TV, was the Master of Ceremonies. Introductions were given by Humberto González, OCHLA chair; Richard Romero, the commission’s vice-chair; Henry Guzmán, director of the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety; José Torres, Ohio’s Deputy Legal Counsel; and Ezra C. Escudero, OCHLA’s director.

Dr. Rosita López delivered the keynote speech. López was raised in Chicago, dropped out of high school, but later earned her GED, followed by a series of degrees that culminated in earning her Doctoral degree in Education from Northern Illinois University.

Moraima Harney and Ramiro Estrada were remembered with remarks by Grace Ramos of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

The commissioners announced the names of the awardees for two of the OCHLA’s most prestigious honors—the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award and the Nuestra Familia Award.

The DHO awardees were: Alfonso Cornejo (pres. of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati), Anthony González (Cleveland native, Ohio State football wide receiver), Juan Miranda (Columbus photographer), Margarita Quiñones (assistant vice-pres. of First Merit Bank), Rosalina Reyes (treas. of Lorain’s Puerto Rican Home), Manuel Rodríguez (senior vice-pres. of Chiquita Brands International), and “Cantamos al Señor (liturgical musical group of SS. Peter & Paul Church, Toledo).”

The Nuestra Familia Award is given to non-Latino Ohioans inside commissioners’ districts who have positively impacted Latinos and the community. They were: Dr. Sidney Ribeau, pres. of BGSU, CAPA, Rev. Paula Jackson, Rep. Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna), Sen. C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland), and Cleveland Councilman Matt Stone.


In his speech, Gov. Strickland welcomed diversity and Henry Guzmán, attorney José Torres, Commissioner Richard Romero, and other Latinos to the Ohio team. Strickland made it a point to visit ever table at the Gala so that he could personally meet the guests and participants.

“All of us are descendants of immigrants,” said Strickland.

Editor’s Note: Travis Minnear is a senior at Ohio State University, majoring in Journalism. Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.

Gov. Ted Strickland with representatives from the Puerto Rican Home  based in Lorain

OSU wide receiver Anthony González and his mother Jenna González with Gov. Strickland


 Simms-Howell Gov

 Phil Barbosa Grace Ramos


 Mary Santiago y hija

 Marisol y Ruben y LP


 Ezra C. Escudero

 Simon Rodriguez


 Henry Guzman, Maritza Perez, Richard Romero

 Marisol Simms-Howell


 Richard Romero, Michael Beck, Henry Guzman, Ruben Torres






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