Community Spotlight: Hispanic Heritage Month

Your stories have power. They bring ideas to life and can shape how others see the world, and here at Hearts, we use stories to build community. 

This is one of many posts in our Community Spotlight Series, where we feature Hearts who identify with a group and have important conversations about how we can support one another. 

Throughout the series, we will work closely with these individuals to create an experience where they can share their culture with fellow Hearts. We’ll hear directly from them about their lives, the safe spaces they’ve created to live their truth and how we can be better allies. 

And then we listen. 

Because more than ever, stories that celebrate our differences need to be heard.

Applauding Hispanic diversity 

Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15. The day commemorates the anniversary of independence from Spain for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua—followed shortly by Chile and Mexico.

This month, we honor and celebrate the immense contributions of Americans who have Latin American and Spanish ancestry. It provides the opportunity to share generational stories from the past, take action to expand representation for the future and connect with the community now.

Here’s what Hearts & Science has in the works:

  • Hispanic Heritage Month Art Workshop
    Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. ET for Hearts employees 

    This will be an hour-long workshop hosted by the US Latinx Art Forum (USLAF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the art and history of the U.S. Latinx community. They will introduce participants to selected works by three contemporary Latinx artists: Lucia Hierro, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Juan Sánchez, and guide participants through an art activity based on these works.

  • Hispanic Heritage Month Pop Culture Trivia
    Wednesday, October 5, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. ET for Hearts employees 

    Hearts is hosting an exciting game of Hispanic Heritage Month Pop Culture Trivia. Join us and test your pop culture knowledge! Participants will get a chance to win one of three gift cards from Rewards Genius!

Safe spaces to share

Kristie nourishes community wherever she goes

Kristie Cruz grew up in the Bronx, New York, with her Dominican family. Like other Dominicans from the Bronx, her family had immense pride in their deep-rooted culture there (Go Yankees!). The melting pot of New York offered an expansive tapestry of culture to grow up in, which continued for Kristie at the Bronx High School of Science.

 “You could walk from the start to the finish of the Bronx, and there would be areas where you would never have to speak English.”

Things changed when she left for college. She moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to study at Wesleyan University, where the town has a population of less than 50,000 people and was predominantly white.

Kristie explains, “There were two sides to really becoming myself. Being a Latino growing up in New York in such a diverse place, you learn how to be yourself and become this tough person. Then going to a liberal arts college in white suburban America was very eye-opening.”

“I learned a lot by myself and about myself at college and transformed into a better student, person and woman.”

Finding a community that made Kristie feel like she belonged was integral to her college experience. At Wesleyan, she co-chaired Ajúa Campos, a group that celebrates Latinx culture. The group would meet for events like potlucks, dances and movie nights. It offered a safe space for students to discuss politics, arts and life experiences.

Now at Hearts & Science, Kristie continues her involvement in building community with the Latino & Hispanic Leadership Network (LHLN). She hosts Cafecito Hour, which is a monthly member meeting across partner agencies. This network has given Kristie another opportunity to develop professionally, learn more about herself and grow with her community.

Members are able to openly communicate in this safe space, where no topic is too light or too serious. This group also acts as a support network, connecting mentors and mentees who can offer nuanced support in life and help in growing careers. Kristie shares: 

Pro tip: “Even if it’s just one hour a month, I suggest prioritizing time for spaces that make sense for you.”

Treading new paths with Alex

Alex Acaro is a first-generation Hispanic American who grew up in New York. His mother immigrated from Colombia, and his father from Peru in the 1980s. A lot of his relatives crossed the border in the years following, putting aside their own dreams to provide a better life for their children. Some of Alex’s fondest memories growing up were during the holidays, when his big family would put aside any grudges and come together to celebrate. 

Some people in the Hispanic community see their family tree as the blueprint for their future, but Alex’s mother wanted to open up their narrative. She worked hard to make sure he pursued his dreams and interests through after-school programs and community organizations. 

At first, he hated a sleep-away environmental camp he was sent to for two weeks in Upstate New York. Why does someone from New York City need to know how to build a fire or shoot a bow and arrow? Now he looks back at the experience fondly, grateful for his Mom’s guidance in trying new things. Alex was taught: 

There’s always an opportunity somewhere; you just have to find them and have an open mind.”

Learning to appreciate the diversity of his early experiences primed Alex for his current role at Hearts & Science. He now works as a digital strategist contributing to multicultural marketing and brand campaigns for HBO Max. He uses data daily to craft campaigns that speak to diverse regions, ages and cultures, and he gets to learn more about his own culture in the process too. 

Alex is also actively engaged in the Diversity and Inclusion (DNI) network at work, where he has a mentorship team that supports his journey. He knows personal struggles can feel very isolating, but being able to share those struggles with his mentor and fellow mentees always helps to keep him moving forward as he realizes they’ve had similar experiences too.

Pro tip: Remember, you are not alone. Just keep swimming!

Work should be a safe space too

Hearts & Science is dedicated to building a space where its employees are recognized and feel seen. There are many ways we are supporting inclusion efforts.

Here’s what’s in the works:

  1. Participate in a network. Hearts & Science invites employees to access the OMG Latino & Hispanic Leadership Network and have a voice in how the company supports Hispanic and Latino employees and allies. Don’t have one at your company? Contact your human resources department and be the force for change that starts one.
  2. Attend upcoming company events. Attend every company event that you can. Learn, enjoy, represent your perspective and share feedback on how your company can create truly inclusive programming. If you don’t have any events, start one. 
  3. Show your support. We created an email signature and a Zoom background for employees to use. It’s one small gesture you can make to show your support for Hispanic colleagues and partners and the greater community. Use ours or make your own at your own company. 

What individuals can do on their own:

  1. Shop at Hispanic-owned businesses. Hispanic-owned small businesses are one of the fastest-growing business groups in the United States. News sites Good Housekeeping, Thrillist and Cosmopolitan have developed lists of Hispanic-owned businesses you can support.

Andriena Coleman, associate director of DE&I at Hearts & Science, shares, “Hearts is a workplace where new ideas can flourish. Together, this community of amazing individuals changes and grows through unique experiences and perspectives. Our differences are celebrated and truly invaluable to our organization.”

The Hispanic community at Hearts & Science and beyond  is bursting with incredible talent and valuable perspectives to share. Let’s take a moment to listen and be a safe space to celebrate differences with those we interact with.