LISTO: Creating pathways for our young people | Latin Touchpoints

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By Gloria Vazquez Merrick

Gloria Merrick, PennLive Editorial Board, June 13, 2019. Mark Pynes | [email protected]

Growing up Latina in Allison Hill, Harrisburg, I remember wanting to be a social worker because it seemed to fit what I had been doing in the community from a young age. This included wrapping gifts for children in preparation for Three Kings Day; helping with catechism classes for children a few years younger than me; riding to pick up kids from Swatara Street, Allison Hill and take them out for ice cream.

It also included walking the dogs for the elderly and running to Green’s Bakery to get their ‘bear claws’ and buttery buns! I remember reading books to kids and taking them home until next time! Being a social worker would allow me to do even more! However, after 8 years at St. Francis, I walked into Bishop McDevitt, got distracted, and before I knew it – graduation!

Everyone was going off to college, and I was waiting for it to happen – but nothing!

Shortly after starting an entry-level government job at 18, I was blessed with the attention of mentors who helped shape my future direction, which ultimately led to years more later to become director of the Leadership Development Institute for Women in Government. This program and my personal experiences growing up are what led to the evolution in 2016 of a leadership institute – LISTO – especially for the young Latinos of Allison Hill!

Rally in support of Ukraine

The center’s executive director, Gloria Merrick, walks along 13th Street during the rally. A rally of unity and support for the Ukrainian people is held at the Hispanic Latin American Community Center in Harrisburg. March 4, 2022. Dan Gleiter | [email protected]

As author Grant Cardone quotes: “Never take the position that things just happen to you; rather, they happen because of something you did or didn’t do. The LISTO Leadership Institute, focuses on what students do take charge of their future. These Latino students are in high school — most in 9th and 10th grade. They learn financial planning; Workforce development; Career Objective; leadership, and more. They meet after school hours for two months, learning from a faculty of like-minded leaders who share similar stories. It all evolved with grants from The Hershey Company and the Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC).

Thank you to LISTO’s latest supporters: Mid Penn Bank, The Hershey Company, Capital Blue Cross, Pennian Bank, PNC Bank, the Harrisburg School Board Foundation, The Giant Company, Riverview Bank and Weis Markets.

LHACC’s LISTO is also proud to have met the criteria to become the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) approved by the Ministry of Community and Economic Development. These EITC sponsors and donors help sustain the leadership institute – the Latino Center welcomes contributions.

The success stories are too many to mention as Latino students at LISTO graduate high school and move on! They “break the cycle” and take their lives into their own hands:

  • Lucero, (LISTO Class ‘2016) achieved his teaching aspirations this year.
  • Brusli (‘2017), joined the army and aspires to become a software engineer.
  • Michael (‘2017), attends Messiah University majoring in Applied Health Sciences with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy.
  • Chris (‘2017) moved to Houston, TX and works at AT&T, while pursuing a degree in Computer Science.
  • Cintia (‘2016) is currently enrolled in Penn State’s master’s program studying nutritional science to become a registered dietitian.
  • And Angeles (‘2020), attending HACC with a concentration in business administration.

The recent class of 2022 is in high school, prepared and showing signs of a positive future direction! Soon they too will join the confidence-filled alumni of LISTO who are proudly fulfilling their lifelong dreams!

Let this LISTO program remind you to seek youth mentorship opportunities where you work and in the communities where you live. Help give hope and advice that can make a difference!

(Learn more about the Latino Center – LHACC LISTO program at lhacc.org)

Gloria Vazquez Merrick is Executive Director of the Latin American Hispanic Community Center (LHACC)

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