Voto Latino Power Summit Engages Millennials in San Jose

Last weekend downtown San Jose had a little bit more Hollywood star power than usual with the arrival of the Voto Latino Power Summit. College students, educators, civic leaders, and business professionals attended the two-day event to hear distinguished panelists discuss the power of the Latino vote.

Co-founded by actor and activist Rosario Dawson and led by Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino is a non-partisan organization from D.C. that aims to inspire English-speaking Latinos to become invested in the political process. Over the last ten years, the organization has creatively used the power of the media, Latino celebrities, mobile technology, and social media to register nearly a quarter-million voters. Now, Voto Latino has the support of entities such as PG & E, Southwest Airlines, The MacArthur Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation and of course Silicon Valley Latino.
Rosario Dawson-Voto Latino Power Summit San Jose

“It’s nice to be home,” said Kumar, a native of Sonoma County who is Voto Latino’s CEO and President. According to Kumar, it was important to include San Jose in the tour not only because the city is the hub of new technology, but also the home to a large Latino community. It was through her friendship with Assemblymember Nora Campos that Kumar realized bringing the Summit to San Jose would be “an opportunity for incredible change.”

Actor and Voto Latino Artist Coalition co-chair Wilmer Valderrama agreed by stating, “In order to empower this community, in order to empower our culture, we have to go where they live.” Valderrama added, “I feel like that’s the biggest issue that local government has is that they don’t bring the conversation where people are.”

What kind of conversation did the Voto Latino Power Summit bring to San Jose? The workshops and panels held at the San Jose State University campus tackled different topics—from how to build your own website to the dos and don’ts of networking. However, the main conversation that surfaced from all these different discussions was clear: Latino Millennials have the potential to enact change in this country and to be more than just sought-after consumers.

Indeed, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the U.S. Latino purchasing power is approaching $1.5 trillion this year. In 2010 it was $1 trillion. Companies and marketers are noticing this trend.

During a panel discussion, Dawson encouraged the Millennials in the audience to take that leap from being consumers to being creators. “What would you like to see yourself doing?” she asked them. “You’re not just consumers—you are innovators.”

A dynamic speaker, Dawson explained to the audience, “The next generation is going to be reading about you in our history books—the ones who created that thing, that promoted that thing, that changed the face of the world.”

When it comes to Silicon Valley’s tech industry, the sobering reality is that only seven percent of tech workers are African American or Latino (see Working Partnership USA report). This means that only a small percentage of underrepresented minorities are in the position to make decisions about new technology. It also means only a few Latinos are working in an industry where the average annual salary is $70k.

One way for Latino Millennials to change those statistics and to generally become more empowered is through the political process, said Assemblymember Nora Campos. “We need to encourage ourselves and our family members and others that we need to start seeing civic engagement as a must, not an option,” stated Campos.

Another way to enact change is through technology, which Latinos are quite comfortable using. According to Kumar, Latinos went to their mobile devices in 2006 to help bring together 2 million people to march peacefully for comprehensive immigration reform. They were “the first people in the world to organize using technology in our streets,” she said.

Voto Latino Power Summit San JoseState Senator Alex Padilla, who was on the same panel, concurred: “Latinos are diverse, we’re young, we’re old, we’re in the East Coast and West Coast. Our parents may not have email but we’re on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.”

And sometimes a young person can become empowered just by doing something as simple as networking. Indeed, one of the biggest aims of the Voto Latino Power Summit was to create opportunities for participants to share their stories, exchange information, and network with each other.

Sarahi Espinosa, a student from Cañada College in Redwood City, appreciated the panel on how to “schmooze.” Silicon Valley Latino founder, Alex Ontiveros, was delighted to have participated in that panel as he and the other panelists shared numerous insights on effective networking which include the use of social media platforms. Sarahi will start incorporating these tips soon as she plans to become a leader in local politics. She attended Voto Latino because she wanted to “network with the right people.”

“A lot of the times I feel that we take a super long way to try to get somewhere when we just could have gone straight,” said Espinosa before she left for the next panel.

While the Voto Latino Power Summit tour reached its conclusion in San Jose, it is clear that Kumar and her team will continue to engage and inspire the next generation of Latinos for years to come.

LIT College Tour/Conference – Silicon Valley


On Saturday May 3rd The Lit College Tour/Conference made its Silicon Valley stop at the San Jose State University campus where numerous professionals shared their backgrounds, insights and personal stories with local college students from the San Francisco Bay Area.  Special thanks goes out to the principal organizer and conference producer, Mario Cobian.  SVL had a great time covering this exciting and worthwhile event and SVL founder and CEO enjoyed participating as we panelist. Additionally, SVL 40 Under 40 Latinos2Watch honorees Jessica Ruvalcaba and Mia Perez also participated as panelists throughout the day. Students listened to various professional and experts talk about STEAM, Crowd Funding, Personal Branding, Marketing, Entertainment, Media and Entrepreneurship. SVL looks forward to partnering with the LIT College Tour when it returns to Silicon Valley next year!


LIT College Tour/Conference - Silicon Valley

On Saturday May 3rd The LIT College Tour/Conference made its Silicon Valley stop at the San Jose State University campus where numerous professionals shared their backgrounds, insights and personal stories with local college students from the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Cisco’s ERO Conexion & MESA partnership for students

On Friday, September 6th, 2013 Cisco’s Latino Employee Resource Organization (ERO), Conexion, had another first.  They partnered with an organization called MESA, Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, here in San Jose.


MESA helps underprivileged college students in engineering majors by providing guidance & mentorship programs.  Conexion joined forces with MESA last spring and conducted a shadowing day at Cisco for 30 students who were then partnered with 30 Cisco mentors for a one year engagement.  One request that kept coming from the students was how to “get into Cisco”.



After a few conversations with Diversity Recruiting and University Recruiting, Conexion decided to host a recruiting day.  Conexion worked with the different business units to understand where the requisitions would be open and had the students apply ahead of time.



Anabelle Pinto, Director in Sports and Entertainment at Cisco, kicked off the day with some inspirational words to the students.  Cisco had 7 students interview for full time positions.  Two students interviewed for internships. Nine students, that do not yet qualify for either internships or full time positions, had mock interviews with Cisco employees.  The day ended with Rosie Cofre, ERO Strategic at Cisco, sharing her story about her challenges of growing up as a diverse person in the US.  It resonated well, and left everyone inspired!


This was the first time that an ERO was able to provide a diverse candidate pool to Cisco that resulted in interviews and hopefully in a few new hires for next summer!


About Conexion/MESA partnership:

Conexion sponsored the MESA Shadowing Day & Mentoring Journey originally on March 8th, 2013 at the San Jose Cisco offices. 

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) is nationally recognized for its innovative and effective academic development program.  This particular program is a partnership between MESA and Cisco to provide shadowing and mentoring opportunities for MESA higher education students interested in pursuing careers in technology.  To kick-off their experience, thirty students spent a half-day at Cisco, learning more about their technologies and solutions, meeting their individual mentors, shadowing their jobs, and then reflecting on the experience.  Thirty Cisco mentors were recruited through our partnership with the Employee Resource Groups at Cisco. 

Informal mentoring relationships between MESA students and Cisco employees will continue for a period of one year, where they will meet monthly to discuss student areas of study and interest, review areas of focus for the Cisco employee, and engage in coaching and mentoring discussions. 

The Future Silicon Valley Latina Coders

It is an early Saturday morning as I am driving, with my daughters, to one of the greatest cities in the country if not the world, San Francisco, for what will be their first experience as computer programmers at the event “Build A Webpage – in a Day”. Coding is a modern science but also an art.

I recall the countless times as a youth driving into the city with my father to work in his art gallery on Maiden Lane. Learning the ins and outs of art and acquiring an eye, over many years, of how to appreciate good art.

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The significance of this event on this particular Saturday in May was that young Silicon Valley Latinas from all corners of the Valley & Bay Area were able to express and create their dreams via the modern canvas – The Computer screen! Step by step they were guided through the process of drawing their topic on paper first so that they could see how it would appear on their computer screen and then the coding began step by step. Their fingers gliding over the keyboards as a painter glides the brush across the canvas. The painter’s canvas in this case was the screen showing the coding on the wall with the master painter at the back of the class typing in the instructions for the girls to follow and learn.

We are about technology

As Giovanni Rodriguez wrote in Forbes not to long ago “while disparities in education (STEM) and employment exist, the conventional wisdom obscures the reality that Latinos are an emerging force in technology” and this first experience for these young Latinas in Build A Webpage – in a Day presented by Black Girls Code in partnership with Latino Startup Alliance, MEDASF & Google for Entrepreneurs demonstrates the hunger that Latinas in this case have to leave their mark on this industry.

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After learning to code the entire day these young ladies, 59 of them, were able to build their webpages on fashion, animals, dolls, etc. showing us their youth and at the same time learning how to create and bring to life, via their modern canvas, their dreams.

As I took pictures of these young artists keying code on their modern canvases I wondered if this is what it would have been like 70+ years ago when Frida Kahlo began leaving her mark in the art world and now it was these young Latinas turn to leave their mark on this wonderful Valley & City.

Globaloria- empowering youth through science


Jennifer Arguello: The Globey Awards


Avalos Foundation: Educational Scholarships

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An Innovative Educational Strategy

Take a moment to reflect on your middle & high school experience. The awkwardness, the peer pressure, the pains of growing up-although challenging- these experiences helped us develop resiliency. In our ever-changing world, the importance of strong, viable school communities cannot be denied. More and more research is showing that in order to be excellently prepared for a successful career and life in our global society, adolescents need to develop essential skills, such as: innovation, adaptability, critical analysis, cross-cultural communication, and teamwork.

At E3: Education, Excellence & Equity, this is the skill set they are instilling within middle and high school students via three strengths-based approaches: professional development for educators, innovative tools for effective student engagement, and a leadership development program for the most at-risk students, which includes educational outings and a multi-media project. Their consistent results each year are remarkable: 90% of teachers report that student engagement increases in their classroom, students increase their G.P.A.’s while decreasing their suspension & absence rates.

What is truly innovative about E3 is the focus on an interactive strengths-based approach, in which the competencies students have gained from their diverse life experiences are recognized and matched to the correlating 21st century skills. This shift in paradigm boosts students’ self-esteem and confidence. Once their resiliency is highlighted and they realize the value & interdependency of their lived & learned experiences, students are able to reach academic success. By using technology to guide students through a digital story project, they not only gain multi-media skills, but also the understanding of how resiliency can help us succeed in both social and academic situations.

*E3 imagines a future where educators embrace the lived and learned experiences of each student, and value the strengths that each child brings into the classroom.  In this future, all children achieve academic success, graduate from high school, and have the skills required for their next steps in an ever-changing world.

For more information, please visit: and contact us at:

How to think green for your next construction project.

California’s single family residence construction trends.


Green is hot. Green is everywhere. Green is the new “must have” quality of almost every home remodel, addition or new project, especially in California, and particularly in the Bay Area.

In the past decade, California, always known for pushing the envelope, has moved towards darker shades of green. A deeper awareness of the concepts of sustainability has developed into mandatory regulations and even a recent green building code in 2010.

What does it really mean for a house to be green?

Silicon Valley is all about gadgets!  In the built environment green means: solar panels, solar water heaters, whole-house fans, energy efficient appliances, etc.

Using green or sustainable products, considering their origin and making most efficient use of resources are also essential in making a house green.






The actual “design” of the house is the most important aspect to consider.  Prior to having mechanical heating and cooling systems, ancient cultures developed techniques to take advantage of solar orientation, natural ventilation, thermal mass; etc. Today, architects use the very same techniques to build green.

The Moody House in Los Altos Hills is a good example of a house in which the architect used design, resources and gadgets to make the house green.  The architect carefully studied the site:  The elements of nature & context around the property included sun patterns on a south facing hill, valley breezes, trees and views. A major road on the north facade and breathtaking valley views towards the east had to be considered as well.

A thorough understanding of the site as well as understanding the owners’ specific needs translated into a simple and efficient building. The simple rectangular shape of the house on two and three levels, is organized on an east-west axis. It follows the contours of the site and fits well into the topography.  The house is situated in such a way that it takes advantage of the top and bottom flat areas of the site while capturing the best views towards the bay.

All living spaces face south, while the service spaces close off the building to the north, protecting it from cold and providing privacy from the street.  Length of overhangs on the south and east facades were calculated to shade the house in hot summer days, and allow sun into the rooms during winter. The design incorporated natural cross ventilation throughout the house.  In the summer time, the valley breeze works its way from the wide openings on the south side through the clerestory windows above (stacking effect) on the north side.



It’s been a couple of years since the Moody house was completed and the owners have noticed that local bird species populate the surrounding trees and often visit the decks and balconies that surround the house.

Also, many of the bikers who frequent that road seem to be in the habit of taking breaks in front of the house to say hello and chat for a little while.

The moody house has a real sense of place and has taken on a life of its own.

To learn more about the Moody House visit:

Aida Alvarez: United We Dream