Latinos United for College Education Scholarships (LUCES) will be hosting its third annual scholarship banquet at the Concourse Hotel in Madison and Pedro Albiter, founder and president, knows that this is an important time for his organization and an important time for Latinos, in general.
“There is a huge need for increased opportunity for our Latino students,” Albiter tells The Madison Times in an interview at Jade Mountain Cafe on Madison's east side. “The demographics show that Latinos are increasing enormously here in Dane County. It's amazing. One of the problems is that our students of color — African Americans and Latinos — are underperforming in Dane County and nationwide.”
Conquering the achievement gap will be the main topic of the 2013 LUCES Third Annual Gala Event Scholarship Banquet Aug. 23. LUCES is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure bright futures for young Latinos in Wisconsin by providing several merit- and need-based scholarships.
Albiter remembers when LUCES hosted its first banquet at Edgewood College in 2011 with about 90-100 people. This year, they are expecting between 250-300 attendees. “The place was too small that first year. There were people who wanted to attend that couldn't,” he remembers. “This year, we decided for the third year to move to the Concourse and bring more people to the banquet. We are now recognizing six students at the banquet with scholarships. That has been increasing every year, too.”
For the young scholarship winners, it's much more than receiving that $500 or $1,000 — although that money helps quite a bit. “It's about recognizing their worth and recognizing their achievements,” Albiter says. “It's about motivating them to continue because they need a little push. They are all part of the family. We need to not just support the high-fliers; we need to support everyone. That's what we are all about at LUCES.”
At the banquet, LUCES will be recognizing Latino scholars for the academic achievement and community service through scholarships sponsored by local business such as Alvarado Real Estate Group, Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, Latino Ed Council, Fratta Family, CUNA Mutual Foundation, UW-Madison, Arellano & Phebus Law Firm, UMOS, TDS, TC Carpet Care, MG&E, Hy CITE, Woodman's, Hair Innovations by Ruth, MATC, United Way, Amigo Painting, El Bolillo Bakery, and more.
Albiter says that they are looking for students who will one day give back to the community. “Our scholarship committee had a tough time because selecting six or seven candidates from a pool of candidates is very hard,” Albiter says. “Everybody who applied deserves a scholarship. Unfortunately, everything is about funding. It was very hard for us.”
The banquet program will also feature performances by Grupo Candela, Brisas del Peru, Dando Mambo, and Ballet Folklorico de Maria Avila. “[MMSD] Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will be there along with [President and CEO] Leslie Howard from United Way,” Albiter says. “Mario Mendoza will be the master of ceremonies. He always does such a nice job. Our keynote speaker will be Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. It's a fun time. A chance to socialize, network, eat, drink, and dance. Have fun, but know that you are also supporting our young Latino scholars. It's a win-win for everybody.”
LUCES has evolved from a small group to a very important Madison organization for Latinos.
“We've had a tremendous group effort to make this work. It's teamwork for people who believe in supporting Latinos' education,” Albiter says.
In September of 2005, Albiter started a small group called Club Mexiquense and worked with small issues involving the Latino community in south-central Wisconsin.
“Very few people knew what Club Mexiquense was about even though we really worked hard with the Mexican Consulate to bring the mobile consulate to the cultural center,” Albiter remembers. “We served more than 1,000 people every time we brought the consulate here to provide Mexican passports and Mexican I.D.s. Many of those were used to get a GED at MATC or to open businesses or for people to travel and visit their families.”
In 2011, Albiter says that they wanted the organization to be more visible in the community and they changed the name to LUCES. “It was a group effort of the different board members at that time,” Albiter remembers. “We continued to bring the consulate in even more and most of our funding from the scholarships was from the consulate.”
Currently, Albiter says, they are working on LUCES becoming a 501c3 non-profit as they also work hard to provide scholarships to help pay partial tuition and help students achieve their dreams and have a better and brighter future for them, their families, and for the Wisconsin community.
“We have different local businesses supporting us,” Albiter says. “We try to bring businesses to the table and say, 'Look it. Let's invest in the education of Latinos. By investing in that, you are investing in the community. And if you invest in the community, you are investing in the your companies and your organizations.”
“The response has been remarkable,” he adds. “
As LUCES continues to grow and begins to look beyond its 3rd annual Scholarshippppp Banquet later this month, it is Albiter's hope that continue to forge more valuable partnerships with key players in the city as they continue to grow — agencies like MMSD, MATC, UW-Madison, Centro Hispano, Edgewood College, and more.
“We are looking forward to merging more and more partnerships in the community as we continue to grow,” he says. “We are currently discussing in what ways we can positively impact that community beyond scholarships. We are definitely looking to the future and researching how we can benefit our Latino students and their families.
More businesses involved and more community partnerships will lead to greater LUCES outreach and more that they can do for young students in the community. “We want to continue to increase our number of scholarships for our young students,” Albiter says. “Not just scholarships, but we want to increase the resources and to increase the opportunities for our Latino students.
The 2013 LUCES Scholarship Banquet will be held Friday, Aug. 23, 6 p.m. at the Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton St. There are still tickets remaining for this Third annual Gala Event. A table of 8 is only $350 dollars, and a single ticket is $45.
For more information, visit www.luces-wisconsin.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (608)469-0347.