By Raul Soto
Looking back at the last eighteen months since my appointment at EPA, I am struck by the incredible passion I have been exposed to during my interactions with both region and program offices alike. During this Hispanic Heritage month, I can honestly say that I have been privileged to work alongside individuals that wear the agency on their sleeves and open their hearts to the needs of the American public. Interfacing with dedicated professionals throughout the agency has solidified my appreciation for the deep resolve I see manifested when I gaze upon individuals seeking to assist communities in need.
When I consider the theme of Jobs & the Economy, I consider a personal hero – my dad. Here is a man that I can honestly say never groused about getting up and going to work. He loved his job and it showed. It might never have paid much, but it was enough to raise a family of six and allow for some discretionary spending like a bike or a football to while the time away on hot Saturday afternoons growing up in South Texas. His oft-quoted phrase to us was: “Your work ethic is a reflection of your personal character”. “Mijo”, he would tell me, “Con ganas, todo es possible”. With effort, anything is possible.
In the 1990’s, Hispanics were heavily reliant on employment as a main component to personal income. Close to 70% of adult Hispanics were in the labor force by necessity. In recent years, with the great recession in full swing, many Hispanics/Latinos struggle to maintain and preserve their households. Still, they remain resilient.
Education continues to be a major contributor to economic fortunes for Latinos. Its positive effects were in evidence during a summer EPA-sponsored interns networking event. During the course of the morning I came across a young man and woman from Texas A&M- Kingsville. The young man declared he was going to take his younger brother under his wing and educate him about the mission he had been a part of. The young lady was so thoroughly committed to the role of Latinos in environmental justice, she is considering the possibility of a graduate degree. Their unbridled enthusiasm and appreciative demeanor so motivated me, that I feel rejuvenated and resolved to keep mentoring those who strive to be good role models and stewards of our environment. Con ganas, si se puede!
About the author: Raul Soto is the Associated Assistant Administrator for Office of Diversity, Outreach and Collaboration
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.