Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
I am inspired by President Obama’s call for us to Win the Future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of world. We share our President’s optimism and faith in the spirit of the American people and are especially encouraged by the critical contribution Americans of Latino descent will continue to make as our nation achieves this goal. In Illinois, Latino children comprise 1 in every 5 school age children. Winning the Future (PDF) requires we invest in them and their classmates.
At Instituto, we believe education is the power and freedom to enjoy the best that this country has to offer, the power to provide for our families and ensure a better quality of life. That is why we invest. We invest time building relationships with families to tap their creativity and imagination, help connect them to their own dreams and aspirations, guide them along career paths and provide the educational experiences that propel them to success in colleges and universities.
Latinos are the second largest and fastest-growing population in the United States, expected to triple by the year 2050 to constitute more than a quarter of the total U.S. population, according to projections from the Pew Research Center. However, Latinos are underrepresented in critical high demand growth industries such as healthcare, with 3 percent of nurses, 3.4 percent of pharmacists, 3.8 percent of physicians and 5.3 percent of physician assistants of Latino descent.
Graduates of our bi-lingual nursing bridge program, the very same students that entered our institution after dropping out of high school or speaking little to no English are graduating as valedictorians and salutatorians of their Licensed Practical Nursing class at the City Colleges of Chicago. As a result, the City Colleges has increased its course offerings by 300%. Even better, 100% of our graduates are employed earning an average salary of $40,000 per year.
Putting American families on the path to prosperity and independence is a goal we share with our partners in the private sector. That is why Instituto joined forces with Baxter International and our regions hospital association, the Metropolitan Chicago Health Care Council, to launch the first Chicago charter high school dedicated to preparing the next generation of doctors, nurses, scientists, technicians and healthcare professionals.
Our community is up to the challenge. Families, inspired by their success, spread motivation and encouragement like wildfire to friends, neighbors and loved ones. By helping families persist and graduate, Instituto is doing its part in Chicago to ensure we win the future.
Juan Salgado is the President and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino.