CHLI Spotlight on Former Global Leader: Eliza Ramirez
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Posted by: Roberto Cervantes
Interview by FIU CHLI Communications & Marketing Fellow Roberto Cervantes
This past summer, the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program brought together philanthropists, students, leaders and other civic sector representatives to confer and develop solutions for the challenges that impede the advancing of the Latino millennial civic engagement in the United States.
Former CHLI Global Leader, Eliza Ramirez was part of the team that was brought together in order to discuss such proposals. During her time with CHLI, Ramirez interned in the office of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) and with Comcast | NBC | Telemundo.
After graduating from California State University, Fullerton, Ramirez found herself coming back to Washington, D.C., through her attraction to a competitive environment. She is currently the Legislative Assistant and Advisor on foreign policy, trade and telecommunications to Congressman Michael Capuano (MA-07). And just this September, Ms. Ramirez was elected as President of the Women's Congressional Staff Association.
CHLI was able to catch up with Ramirez and learn about her experience in Aspen.
What was your purpose for going to Aspen?
I wanted to explore why Latino Millennials are falling behind in civic engagement and what solutions could be generated to address those barriers and apply those lessons to the work I do.
Is there something you learned from your time at CHLI that facilitated what you had to do in Aspen?
I would say that the CHLI community has helped fuel my passion to help underrepresented communities. Many mentors of mine who are involved with CHLI have taught me that we must work twice as hard to prove ourselves and that as we climb up the ladder we must bring more behind us.
You were chosen over other Latino leaders across the country. Why do you think that was?
I believe I was chosen because of my leadership experience on implementing strategies to increase opportunities for women and minorities to gain employment on the Hill as well as those looking to move up to senior positions. Policy making is not objective, it is influenced by the staffers who write it, which is why it is integral that all communities are represented in the halls of Congress.
I am President of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association and my goals are to recruit, retain, and advance women staffers in the U.S. Congress. Also, I am the founder of the Latinas in the House of Representatives Group, where I facilitate events that focus on “best practices” and skills sets needed to breakthrough to senior positions on Capitol Hill.
What did you think of the other people who attended?
The group came from across the country and represented a range of ages, ethnicities, and perspectives, as well as a broad range of civic engagement practices such as non-profit, government agencies, and foundations. I am proud to say that I was one of the few who worked for the US government, and the only participant representing US Congress.
What were the topics covered and what did you have to say about them?
The seminar covered policy barriers and institutions; the continuum of civic engagement activities; racism and cultural barriers; agency, power and the media; and information and education on civic engagement.
After we identified the top challenges, we worked in teams to devise innovative solutions.
At the end of the convening, each group presented actionable projects and ideas for increasing Latino Millennial civic engagement targeting these five areas. Projects included: a good citizenship certification for businesses, nonprofits and government; a campaign to leverage millennials through social media; an online resource to inform and facilitate participation; developing community
activation efforts; and a fellowship aimed at building a more inclusive civil society for all.
I chose to be part of the group that tackled policy barriers and the lack of institutions and infrastructure, as a result we created a good citizenship certification for businesses.
I proposed that a major challenge on this topic is the lack of young Latino role models in positions of power, including elected offices, boards, and leadership roles in organizations with the capacity to make change.
Solutions to close this gap are (1) increase the number of Latinos going into appointed and elected government positions and (2) diversify staff, workforce, and boards across the private sector, government, and non-government organizations.