Latinos are now the number one minority in the nation but numbers don’t always translate into power. Seeing a need to give potential Latina leaders a resource to find the tools they need to take back to their communities and affect change, Nora Comstock established the Texas Public Policy and Civic Engagement Training Program (TPP-ACE) eight years ago, in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Américas, which she also founded.

“I participated in a program created by the Honorable Dr. Lauro Cruz. The program took place in the evening at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. It was called Innovation ’88,” she explains. “I always admired what Dr. Cruz was doing and when I called to offer to help him, he told me the program was no longer going to be offered. I then asked if he would support Las Comadres taking over and changing it to meet our needs. He said ‘go for it.’  Every year he comes to talk to the class and about the importance of this preparation.”

This year’s class of 14 includes Latinas from all parts of Texas, ranging in age and background. The first session took place, July 12 and focused on values and ethics. The upcoming class, on August 9 at the Texas State Capitol, is open to all Las Comadres members and will focus on voter registration. Promoting civic engagement, TPP-ACE students were required to volunteer as deputy registrars and register ten people to vote, prior to coming to the first class.

They are also required to attend all six sessions that take place one Saturday per month. They must make a commitment to present to a group in their community about the program and raise $400 to contribute to the program outside of the $125 suggested donation for the training. At completion of the program all participants who met the attendance and participation requirements will be awarded a certificate of participation by Las Comadres and signed by Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

“TPP-ACE is a powerful way to help Latinas from throughout the state of Texas, to increase their knowledge and skills so their efforts in either running and winning political elections are more effective, or if Latinas do not wish to run for office, they become acquainted with boards they can get appointed in order to do public service,” asserts Gloria Lenoir, TPP-ACE alum and current project manager.  “The Latino population increases but elected officials do not reflect the size of the population. Only painstaking work and dedication can change the political representation to better reflect the Latino population and our particular needs and philosophical stances.”

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