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January 29, 2024

Breaking Barriers: Latinos and Education, Economic Mobility, and the Catholic Church

Showing the Breaking Barriers: Latinos and Education, Economic Mobility, and the Catholic Church Video

Many Latinos in the United States are left behind in education, economic life, and political life. Educational attainment among Latinos lags behind national averages for high school completion, college education, and other important educational benchmarks. For many, the decision to complete high school and continue to postsecondary education can be socially discouraged, financially difficult, or legally impossible. Many economic measures–unemployment, poverty, income, housing–also reflect these disparities. National policies and politics, major institutions, and anti-immigrant attitudes often undermine progress and hold back the leadership and participation of Latinos in American society.

With an expansive network of high schools, colleges, and universities, along with extensive ministry programs for youth and young adults, the Catholic Church in the United States is uniquely positioned to address these challenges and respond holistically to Latinos’ social, economic, and pastoral needs. Nearly half of all U.S. Catholics are Latino, including more than 60% of Catholics under the age of 18. Yet far too few Latino Catholic children attend Catholic elementary schools, high schools, or universities.

Three remarkable leaders explored questions such as: How can U.S. policies address these disparities and the ways they hold back Latinos and diminish all of society? What needs to change? How can the Catholic community, with its institutional, pastoral, and social resources, respond to these realities? How can young Latinos who have broken barriers in their own lives, education, and work help those who come behind them?

This gathering had three parts:

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. | Welcoming Happy Hour
Meet and network with other young Latinos over food and drink

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. | Latino Leader Gathering
A dialogue and conversation on “Breaking Barriers: Latinos and Education, Economic Mobility, and the Catholic Church” with three leaders

8:00 - 9:00 p.m. | Reception
Continue the conversation over food and drink

Christian Soenen, project manager of the Initiative, moderated the conversation.

This Latino Leader Gathering was for young Latino Catholics and others to explore key issues and personal stories involving faith and public life with distinguished Latinos and other leaders.


View articles, podcasts, and other resources for this dialogue.


Sheila Cruz-Morales (C’23)

Sheila Cruz-Morales (C’23)

Sheila Cruz-Morales (C’23) is a dedicated activist and community organizer. Along with her sister, she established the non-profit College Access for Non-Citizens, which helps undocumented, first-generation, low-income students of color attain access to higher education.

Vicente Del Real

Vicente Del Real

Vicente Del Real is the founder of Iskali, a non-profit that supports first, second, and third-generation immigrants and helps these young people pursue higher education. He also teaches part-time at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago.

Carlota Ocampo

Carlota Ocampo

Carlota Ocampo is the provost, vice president of academic affairs, and an associate professor of psychology at Trinity Washington University. Trinity has gained prominence in recent years for success in the education of low-income students of color.

Fatima Vasquez Molina

Fatima Vasquez-Molina

Fatima Vasquez-Molina, a graduate of the Catholic University of America and friend of Bishop Mario Dorsonville during her time as a student, opened the gathering by remembering Bishop Dorsonville, who passed away on January 19.