EXCLUSIVE: Wilmer Valderrama Talks Civic Engagement and Immigration At Voto Latino Power Summit!

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This year, Voto Latino celebrates their 10th anniversary. The nonpartisan organization aims to empower Latino Millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community.

This past weekend, the organization kicked off their Voto Latino Power Summit tour at John Jay College in New York City. The Power Summit conferences aim to educate and empower young Latinos, while providing them with technological and networking skills through workshops and panels. The conference also features talks with Voto Latino CEO and President Maria Teresa Kumar, Chairwoman Rosario Dawson, and the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, Arianna Huffington. 

The goal of the Power Summit is simple: Voto Latino wants these young Latinos to use their new skills to change their community -- and their world. 

New York City was just the first of four stops on the Voto Latino Power Summit tour. The conference will be held in Miami, FL., San Antonio, TX., and Santa Jose, Calif. in the coming months. Check out their official website for more details about the exciting events. 

We chatted with Wilmer Valderrama, a longtime supporter of Voto Latino, about civic engagement, immigration, and the hard questions Latinos need to be asking: 

When in your life did you decide that civic engagement was important to you? 

I didn't know it was important until I turned 24. I did a film called Fast Food Nation with Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser. It's a movie that talks about the fast food industry and how it affected people directly and indirectly. [It talked about] how illegal immigrants -- or undocumented immigrants -- would cross the border and take jobs in the slaughter house, and how they were being abused and kept as disposable labor. And I thought -- that, to me, was crazy. Richard Linklater, an all-American Texan boy, was the one who told me, "Hey! You know some peoplare listening to you. Some people are actually erading what you're saying. You have an opportunity to say something out loud that can actually represent that community."

I said, "Wow. That should honestly be a very organic extension of who I am, because I'm so grateful for this country. I'm so grateful for the American dream. In this country, which is one of the greatest countries in the world, we don't understand that immigrants are the reason why that exists. Immigrants are the reason why this country actually runs. So, then that's when I got really ignited to actually be a part of the conversation. 

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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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