Voto Latino: VL Innovators Challenge Winners Share Their Stories
Eutiquio “Tiq” Chapa at the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI) manages a database of over 1 million Latino-owned businesses in the United States to spur business partnerships, produce research, and promote better policymaking.
Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca created Dreamers Roadmap, an app that helps undocumented students find scholarships.
Mayra Jhoana Cruz created Mi Mentor, a mobile app that connects Latino students to Latino mentors working in the health field.
*Videos produced by Voto Latino
These three young people are among the winners of the Voto Latino: VL Innovators Challenge. The VL Innovators Challenge is a tech competition spearheaded by Voto Latino with support from the MacArthur Foundation to spur Latino Millennials into thinking about technology as a vehicle for change and career opportunity (members of the Inpoints team produced the animated video at the top). The Challenge gave grants of $10,000 to $100,000 to seven individuals, totaling $500,000, to support projects ranging from developing IT technology for migrant farmworkers in Virginia to the creation of an app and website that helps Latino youth navigate the juvenile justice system.
As discussions about the digital divide and underrepresentation of people of color in technology are typically framed around diversity and equity of access, the VL Innovators Challenge highlights another important reason to pay attention: underrepresentation of innovative solutions to social issues, especially issues faced by communities of color.
The stories of Tiq, Sarahi, and Mayra remind us that technology is personal. Tiq thinks of his father who owned a convenient store with almost no formal education or personal network. Mayra translated for her mother who suffered from a disease that required regular visits to the doctor. Sarahi was called “illegal” for the first time when she applied for and was denied financial aid to college. So when we hear statistics like “only 7% of tech workers are Hispanic”, we must ask how much of the industry is concerned with addressing issues that might be important to people like Tiq, Sarahi, and Mayra. Who is developing the app to meet their needs?
Each of these experiences represents a set of unique challenges that require their own innovative approaches. Each of these experiences represents perspectives and insights that could be critical to coming up with truly creative and innovative solutions to the common challenges we all face. Through the VL Innovators Challenge, Voto Latino is not only seeding the development of innovative applications for today but it is investing in the human capital for the innovations of tomorrow.