| Program: || Montgomery County Consejo Latino Year-Long Community Consensus Dialogue on Ethnicity and Race, Montgomery County, MD |
| Contact(s): || Luis Costas, MCCL President: (301) 585-4877 |
| Purpose: || To develop a cost-effective, community-based plan for rapidly improving the quality of life among Hispanics and other disadvantaged Montgomery County residents |
Hispanics make up over 10 percent of Maryland's Montgomery County residents. Despite high employment rates, Hispanics earn half the wages of non-Hispanics, have the highest educational dropout rate, have the highest rate of over crowded housing conditions and 85 percent of Montgomery County Hispanic families have no form of health insurance. The Hispanic leadership facilitated four years of dialogue with county, state and federal officials on the need to create a high-quality health, housing, education and social service infrastructure for Hispanics in Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Consejo Latino (MCCL) emerged from these dialogues.
In previous dialogues with other county organizations, the community recognized that Hispanic poverty, overcrowded housing, low educational attainment and poor health are interrelated and must be addressed through a comprehensive plan. After extensive research, MCCL developed a plan for constructing community centers that offer bilingual health care, educational programs and other social services. MCCL is in the process of raising the necessary capital to build these centers. Community service centers will be organized in association with Neighborhood Latino Serving Organizations (NLSO). The Community Consensus Dialogue on Ethnicity and Race (CDER) will allow county residents, businesses and pertinent government agencies to co-own this project. The CDER aims to empower the community through consensus building dialogues on race and ethnicity. This consensus will allow the community to discuss the implementation of the business plan and the optimal design for the community centers. The Franklin Covey Group will facilitate these dialogues which will take the form of small-scale weekend retreats, community feedback sessions and Todos Juntos ("we are all together") County-wide fiestas. Private corporations such as Marriot and IBM are financial supporters of CDER. The county has agreed to match funds provided by the private sector and County executives. Congresspersons Wynn and Morella and former Surgeon General C. Everette Koop have also endorsed this plan.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
MCCL expects CDER to benefit the community by fostering awareness about the widening gap Hispanics and non-Hispanics in quality of life indicators and by demonstrating that this gap is everyone's concern. MCCL also seeks to demonstrate that such challenges cannot be overcome by isolated groups and that a consensus will allow the community, businesses and the government to work together to address the needs of all disadvantaged groups. Through the Latino Community Centers, the county can meet these needs by providing services to all disadvantaged residents. Furthermore, CDER and the Community Centers not only exemplify a cooperative effort between the community's public and private sectors, but it also serves as an organizational and empowerment model for communities challenged by racial diversity and socioeconomic disparities.