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SPP Students and Faculty Highlights for Hispanic Heritage Month

Luisa Blanco

The Pepperdine School of Public Policy highlights a faculty member, two students working directly with the Latinx community, and one scholar. Hispanic heritage month signifies a 30-day period in which Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile celebrate the anniversary of independence.

Dr. Luisa Blanco, Professor of Public Policy

Dr. Luisa Blanco, professor of public policy at the Pepperdine School of Public policy is developing the first community-based mobile financial capability intervention that provides useful information and tools for money management to the low- and moderate-income Latinx community in Los Angeles. The program Mind your Money provides weekly text messages and activities for six months among 125 participants. The program is in progress, and participants have engaged with the mobile platform at a near 70% retention rate. This is a high response rate in comparison to in-person financial coaching programs, so the hope is that the pilot study can be used for the design of a program at a larger scale that can be used by community organizations and government agencies. This work is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is conducted in collaboration with Dr. April Thames of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Isaias Hernandez of Eastmont Community Center.

“We provide useful information and behavioral nudges to help people get better at taking care of their money in our Mind your Money program. We all need a program like this because being mindful about how to manage your money is as important as eating well and exercising!”

The School of Public Policy interviewed three students during Hispanic heritage month including one student whose research focused on the Latinix population in California, another who completed an internship with a political agency designed to promote Hispanic Republican candidates and officeholders in Texas, and the 2021-2022 recipient of the Pepperdine Hispanic Alumni Council scholarship.

Vanessa Cruz

Vanessa Cruz, Current Student

My time working with Dr. Blanco was enlightening and motivating. I learned how to methodically research financial literacy and financial stress, specifically among the Latinx community. The research project, Financial Stress Among Latino Adults in California During COVID-19, was recently published, for which I am happy to have taken part.

This research found that while minorities are significantly more impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Latinx community is severely impacted through job losses in the labor workforce, high transmission rates, susceptibility to the virus, issues with child care in which women have had to sacrifice their presence in the workforce, and overall stark increase in financial stress and instability due to the interaction of these variables. The qualitative data supports these variables which were reported to be a part of the experience of Latinx participants. 

Policy impacts this research by implicating that more can be done for minorities in terms of education policy to provide a safer learning environment for children in order to promote economic well-being and mental health. In addition, the promotion of community organization engagement is important for policy to ensure more resources are available for minorities for their health, mental health, and to combat cultural barriers and stigmas associated with mental health. The goal of this research was primarily to inform and bring attention to the disparities present and that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This goal aligns with the work I hope to accomplish in the future because it emphasizes my passion for research but also my personal search for truth and how to best serve the population domestically and through foreign policy. 

Quinn Schurig, Current Student

Quinn Schurig

This past summer I worked with the Hispanic Republicans of Texas (HRT). HRT is part of the Republican PAC and the Hispanic Leadership Alliance (HLA), with the HLA providing direction through its board of directors. HRT works to advocate for Hispanic Republicans in Texas by providing funding and support for rising candidates in Texas state and local offices. To date, HRT has raised $1,500,000 in support for candidates running for state and local office in Texas. In addition to campaign funding and support, HRT provides information to people who are part of our mailing list on current Texas issues, such as immigration or the voter integrity bill that made its rounds through the Texas legislature. I helped research the voter integrity bill and helped draft an informational email to our mailing list with the exact breakdown of the bill, how it wanted to change law, and what it meant for Texas and the Hispanic community as a whole. 

For the Hispanic community, HRT supports Republican Hispanic candidates through the campaign process. HRT gives advice, funds, and information to candidates on pressing issues. One of my largest responsibilities was to research national and local issues, articulate a stance, and then provide the supporting research for candidates who were going on radio and television interviews.

It meant a great deal to me to work for HRT because, in addition to being a minority already, Hispanics who are Republican are even more of a minority. They have lacked representation and support that HRT now helps provide. In recent years that support has paid off, with more candidates in state and local elections representing Hispanic Republicans. I grew up in Buda, Texas, within the Hispanic community where I learned to speak Spanish at a young age in order to communicate and participate fully with my friends. The Hispanic community has always been close and dear to me. Working for HRT meant a lot because I was able to serve a community that is important to my home state and ideals that I cherish. I was able to help and support Hispanic candidates in local elections, people running for office because they are passionate about their community and the individuals they represent. 

Hispanic Republicans are still an underrepresented group in Texas, yet their numbers are still growing, It was a blessing to be able to work for HRT this past summer, I learned a great deal, skills that I will not forget, and I hope that I can work in this area or one that it is related to it in the future.

Leslie Amaya-Yanez

Leslie Amaya-Yanez, Current Student

Living in California and growing up in a Mexican household, I have never been far removed from my own culture and the cultures of other varying Hispanic/Latinx communities. That being said, I know that my experience is not a universal one, and making sure that people from other backgrounds and communities learn about Hispanic culture, history, and traditions is critical, especially here in California. I love being able to share my upbringing and traditions with those who are unfamiliar with them and believe that getting to know each others’ backgrounds, whatever that may be, is essential in continuing to create a diverse and healthy society. Hispanic Heritage Month allows for others to learn about cultures they may otherwise not know much about, and I believe that learning about diverse histories should be celebrated.

The Hispanic Alumni Council Scholarship means a lot to me because, as a first-generation Mexican-American woman, any support from my community goes a long way. This scholarship allows me to continue pursuing higher education with the hopes of being able to give back to my community one day, opening doors that have been graciously opened for me along the way.