EXCLUSIVE: Voto Latino CEO Maria Teresa Kumar Talks Civic Engagement

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Ten years ago, Voto Latino was formed. Ever since, the nonpartisan organization has been devoted to empowering Latino millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community. 

This past weekend, the organization kicked off their Third Annual Voto Latino Power Summit. This year, the Power Summit expands its reach, holding conferences in four cities: New York City, San Jose, Calif., Miami, Fl., and San Antonio, TX. For more information, see their official website

The Power Summit conference aims to educate and empower young Latinos while giving them technological and networking skills through workshops and panels. The conference will also hold discussions with CEO and President Maria Teresa Kumar, chairwoman and co-founder Rosario Dawson, and actor Wilmer Valderrama. 

We chatted with Maria Teresa Kumar about her work with Voto Latino, civic engagement, and the power of hard work and curiosity. 

When in your life did you decide being civically engaged was important to you?

It was at a very young age, because during the summer my mom used to send me back to Colombia. I realized that if my mom -- who at the time was a single mom -- had stayed in Colombia, my future would have been very limited. Coming to the United States, I saw opportunity.

So, this is how nerdy I was: This story is from when I was in grammar school in the third grade. I went to Catholic School, and everyday we had prayer and then they asked you "What are you thankful for?" And I raised my hand and said, "I'm thankful for being an American citizen." Nobody knew what that meant, and I couldn't comprehend it, but I knew it was something powerful.

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Cristina Arreola, Editorial Assistant

Originally from El Paso, Texas, Cristina Mari Arreola earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to BrooklynNew York. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking...), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or baking her favorite sweets. You can follow her on Twitter at @c_arreola

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