Hispanic Heritage Month: More than a celebration, a call to action

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the history, contributions and achievements of Hispanics in the U.S. It is a time to show who we are, share our stories and lean into our Poder Hispano (Hispanic Empowerment).

El Poder Hispano is a mindset, a belief that we can accomplish what we set our minds to and a commitment to help pave the way for future generations. As members of this community, we are all responsible for contributing to the advancement of Hispanics in this country.

As we join this year’s celebration, let’s ask ourselves, “What can I do?”

While we’ve come a long way, much more is needed. It’s estimated that nearly 180,000 K-12 students across New Jersey don’t have access to the internet, computers or skills needed to benefit from the online world. According to a report by Latino Parent Voices, 33% of Latino families reported not having regular access to the internet, and many only have access through their smartphones. This gap in access to home internet service is known as the Digital Divide.

We can all play an essential role in helping bridge the digital divide in New Jersey’s Hispanic community. Every single action, big or small, can positively impact someone’s life.

Look around your immediate circle of friends and family and see what you can do. Donating a laptop or tablet to a family who doesn’t have access to one, or tutoring on basic digital skills, can help more Hispanics connect to the opportunities today’s digital world has to offer.

You can also leverage your community voice or social media platforms to amplify a crucial program like the Affordable Connectivity Program, which can help provide discounted home internet service for eligible households. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans who do not use the internet cite cost as the key factor. Awareness of programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program can make the difference between a family you know having access to internet service or not.

How can you support the next generation of Hispanic leaders?

Imposter syndrome is real; many of us can suffer from the inability to believe that our success is deserved and is a result of our own efforts or skills. To help change this mindset, share your success story, and help young Hispanics navigate corporate America.

Getting involved with your company employee resource group is a great way to develop your leadership skills and to engage in community outreach programs. HACEMOS, AT&T’s Hispanic/Latino employee resource group, strives to support professional development and create opportunities to give back to the communities where we live and work. The group also raises funds for the HACEMOS Scholarship Program to benefit students pursuing higher education. Since the beginning of the program, HACEMOS has raised more than $4 million for Hispanic students.

When I joined AT&T, I was very fortunate to connect with HACEMOS. They became my family away from home and my support group where I learned to navigate the culture in corporate America. As I grew professionally, I dedicated my leadership abilities to the organization and to run educational programs that empower our youth, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. For many years, I have led High-Tech Day, a national event led by HACEMOS and designed to help Hispanic students learn about careers in technology, hosting hundreds of students at AT&T in New Jersey. I have shared my career journey in classrooms, and it fills me with hope to see the smile in students’ faces when they realize that they too can achieve.

If the company you work for currently does not have an employee resource group you can connect with, start one or look for others outside your company.

As corporations and community organizations celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, don’t leave yourself out of the equation — your actions can be just as impactful.

Mayra Caceres, an engineer from Colombia, currently supports the Voice Over IP Network Planning organization at AT&T.