Digital NEST (the NEST) started eight years ago. It may surprise you that all this time we’ve vacillated on whether to be explicit about the fact that we serve the Latino community (even though we welcome youth of all races and backgrounds). We had good reason: we didn’t want to close our doors to other youth who might benefit from our support. But we decided we’d have a much greater impact on Latinx youth if we got clear about our focus and articulated that publicly. Heading into our ninth year, that’s exactly what we did. Here’s why:
We are a predominantly Latino team. I’m the founder, I’m Latino and I started the organization to help my community. Most of our staff is Latinx as is a good portion of our board of directors. We understand the culture, the language, the relationships, and the talent we possess. We have deep, firsthand historical knowledge of what it’s like not only to be Latinx but to be Latinx in America and all the challenges that come with being part of an immigrant community. We are simultaneously an overlooked population and a sleeping giant.
Consider this: There are 60.5 million Latinxs living in the United States (nearly 20% of the total population). We’re the fastest-growing group in America. With that comes great political, social, and economic power. To maximize that power, we have to invest in our people—our youth in particular who are on the precipice of possibility and manifesting their greatest potential. Yet, what is the potential if it’s uncultivated and untapped? The NEST helps develop that potential.
The NEST creates connections and a network for youth that doesn’t really exist in the Latinx community. Looking to the Black/African-American community as a model, we see a strong and active force for connection and support that students coming up in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and graduating into their professional lives, receive from those who came before them. Their community is helping to create an intergenerational influence that surrounds Black youth with the infrastructure they need to be successful in a system that works against them. Latinxs need that same kind of scaffolding. That’s what we’re creating for Latinx youth, and we no longer want to be ambiguous in naming that we exist to serve them.
A perfect example of how the NEST is building support is Alex Chavez. His professional journey began at the NEST. He was our inaugural member of bizzNEST, our member consulting arm. Alex left the NEST for college followed by an internship at a startup, and then employment at an engineering firm. When his company was sold, he came back to the NEST to regroup. That’s when he connected with another NEST member, Martin, who looped him into his company where Alex was then hired. The network we’re creating, combined with skill development, is the magic we want to cultivate for Latinx youth.
Our vision is to elevate Latinx youth in a way that creates long-term, intergenerational change. For us, that means being explicit about who we serve. If you’re passionate about investing in the Latinx community, we’d love to hear from you.