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Connections at the 16th annual Iowa Latino Conference

The Iowa Latino Conference was formed in 1998 to “explore the changing demographics and dynamics of Latino communities in Iowa,” “strengthen the responsiveness of policy makers, business leaders and community-based organizations,” and “provide networking opportunities for Latino leaders who live and work in Iowa.”

As part of the Latino/a Youth Summit, I can say that my experience at the 16th annual Iowa Latino Conference was primarily an opportunity to network among truly influential Latino leaders of not only Iowa but the Midwest and the entire nation. Their ideas on building Latino and non-Latino communities alike are pieces of advice I will keep forever and utilize in The Bridge. I would like to share the story of an inspiring person I met there, Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch.

Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch

There is so much to say about Mrs. Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch. To begin, she was the keynote speaker of the day. Her speech had the ability to take listeners on a journey, as she accurately painted a picture of the struggles that children of low-income families or children of immigrant parents face when they attend school or seek a college education. She recounts her childhood, one of ten children raised along the border in a Texan barrio in Laredo, with a hardworking mother, and a father who taught her that despite their lack of material wealth, they were rich in culture, tradition, values and faith. She shared with us her dream and success of attending college and much more despite poverty, discrimination and illiteracy.

Consuelo entered the U.S. Army after graduating from Hardin Simmons University. In her two decades of service, she became the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army. After her service, Consuelo founded Educational Achievement Services Inc. to prepare leaders of the future. She uses the materials she produces such as videos, audio CD’s, and her book, Journey to the Future: A Roadmap for Success for Youth as tools to reinforce her messages. 

Today, Consuelo has shared her story with over one million children and their parents across the U.S and abroad at hundreds of schools, colleges, universities, corporations, and government institutions. In doing so, she has been praised on CNN’s Latino in America, Univision’s Don Francisco Presenta, the Lifetime Network, National Public Radio, the syndicated television program Hispanics Today, and American Latino Television’s Latination program. Consuelo has also been featured in Hispanic Business magazine’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America, O Magazine, LatinaStyle, Vanidades, and Glamour magazine. In addition, she has been presented with the Legion of Merit, the National Defense Service Medal, she is a four-time recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, and a recipient of the Toastmaster’s Leadership Award. She has been honored with the prestigious National Mujer Award by the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) and in 2012, Consuelo was awarded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Medallion of Excellence.

I am truly honored to have met Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, I gave her every issue of my paper to date. “You are already taking steps in the right direction,” she said to me, words that I will never forget.

Pictured: Erica Ramírez meeting Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch at the Iowa Latino Conference in Iowa City on October 3, 2014

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