“If you are not related to a Hispanic person now, you soon will be.”

                         - Nina Vaca-Humrichouse, Chairman and CEO, Pinnacle Technical
                          Resources and  Chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of
                         Commerce, at 2011 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
                         (CHCI) Opening Plenary.

After hearing that line at The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. (CHCI) Public Policy Conference, I had to tweet it!  CHCI kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month with its 2011 Public Policy Conference in September.   This year’s conference theme was “Keeping the Promise: Unity, Strength, Leadership.”

SHRM Board Chair Jose Berrios was a featured panelist in the opening plenary session, where he engaged in a discussion about the “U.S. Economy and the Changing Demographics.”  Other panelists included Secretary Shaun Donovan, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development; Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, chairman of CHCI; Ron Brownstein of the National Journal; and Nina Vaca-Humrichouse, chairman & CEO, Pinnacle Technical Resources. Ray Suarez of PBS NewsHour moderated.

The panelists brought up some critical issues.  Here are a few that really stood out to me:

Home ownership and the impact of foreclosure on the Hispanic community (particularly with respect to entrepreneurs, who often leverage their home’s equity to fund their businesses);

The need to increase high school and college completion among Hispanics, who sometimes drop out to help earn wages for their family’s survival; and

Bilingualism and the competitive advantage that learning other languages provides.

After the panel, I had the opportunity to interview SHRM’s Jose Berrios.   Mr. Berrios has
had an exciting career in the field of HR and now owns his own consulting firm, Berrios Talent Group.

He gave us some advice for young professionals who are interested in entering the Human Resources field:

What I enjoy about this conference is that it gives people—particularly young people—access to government officials, policymakers and business leaders in order to gain new insights on how to promote change within our own communities. 

The critical issues presented at the conference always inspire me, and I hope we can keep these great discussions going.  I’d love to hear your thoughts:

What are next steps? 
What actions should we take? 
What motivates YOU to act and find out how you can make a change in your community?

And, if you ever get a chance to attend the CHCI conference and gala, do it!  Even President Obama goes to the gala.  It’s a pretty big deal.

Remember that Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15.  So, there’s still time to find an event to attend or museum to explore.  It is important that we continue to learn about each other and discover ways that we can grow.


Fun links you might want to check out:

SHRM Board Chair Featured at CHCI Conference, September 16, 2011 

C-Span video: Latino Community and the U.S. Economy, CHCI, September 12, 2011

Open for Questions with President Obama, September 28, 2011 (White House)
President Obama participates in an “Open for Questions” roundtable responding to questions from readers of Yahoo!, MSN Latino, AOL Latino and HuffPost LatinoVoices on issues that matter most to the Hispanic community and all Americans. 
Spanish version of roundtable: El presidente Obama te responde

Shakira Appointed to President’s Advisory Commision on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (White House)

Angelina Paniagua is the Professional Development Specialist at SHRM.  Follow Angelina on Twitter at @SHRMAngie.