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Area organization supports region’s growing Latino population

The Latino Professionals Association of NEW aims to build network, success for its members

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March 23, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – The Latino Professionals Association of Northeast Wisconsin – more commonly referred to as LPA of NEW, or simply LPA – was founded in 2021 and focuses on highlighting the growth, diversity and evolution of the Latino community in Northeast Wisconsin.

Juan Corpus, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at New North, Inc., one of the co-founders of LPA and its current president, said the organization – now 134 members strong – represents an array of industries, creating a network of Latino professionals committed to sharing experiences, resources and connections.

Together, he said, they are trying to build paths to success that ensure a thriving Latino community in this region.  

“This is important in today’s workplace, especially in our region because, based on census numbers from 2010-20, we’ve seen the numbers of the minority communities, specifically the Asian and Latino communities in the State of Wisconsin, grow by 30%,” he said. “That is the new workforce that is coming up.” 

Corpus said that includes students in grades K-12, as well as in colleges and universities.

“As I think about these growing populations, we need to figure out some opportunities to give them tools to be successful,” he said. “The folks like me who have had to navigate the corporate space didn’t always have the resources to help us know how to move up in an organization, how to negotiate and so on.”

Corpus said it’s important for older generations – like the one he’s in – to help set the stage for the next generation of workers.
“In order to create that world, we need to create and move toward a more ‘belonging’ space,” he said.

In order to accomplish this, Corpus said it’s important to make sure people of different ethnicities and demographics “have a space at the table.”

“Whether it’s a chair, a wheelchair or whatever that looks like – people within those communities not only need to feel they belong at that table and feel comfortable in speaking their mind but feel they have the same opportunities that have traditionally gone to other communities,” he said.

Corpus said despite being a Badger State native who grew up in northeast Wisconsin, he didn’t see representation of the Hispanic or Latino community anywhere – not in the school system, not in the healthcare field, not in any businesses and not the news media.

“But we are seeing that representation now,” he said. “It’s important for us to share our stories, experiences and lessons learned with each other so we can continue to grow and take advantage of the opportunities out there,” he said.

Organization offerings
Corpus said the LPA – which he co-founded with Eddie Noriega and Maria Larahas – has two components.

“First, we have virtual Lunch & Learn meetings every other month,” he said. “These can range from personal development to emotional intelligence to customer-centered service, where we learn about customer service skills that are transferable from one industry to the next, no matter what industry it is.” 

Corpus said the focus of these meetings is to provide professional and/or personal development, teach leadership skills, talk about and share advocacy efforts and provide opportunities for networking.  

The other component offered by the LPA, Corpus said, is quarterly member meetings that are focused on socialization, networking and updating members on things happening in the community.

During these quarterly meetings, Corpus said members discuss future topics of discussion and potential speakers they’d like to hear from at the bi-monthly Lunch & Learns.

“When we plan speakers for Lunch & Learns, we try to think outside the box and come up with topics that are going to resonate with people – but at the same time be interesting to people,” he said.

Juan Corpus

Corpus said LPA member meetings are intentionally interactive.

“We want to hear from everybody or at least a majority of the folks,” he said. “At one of the recent meetings, we got into a conversation about navigating a space (perhaps at work) when you’re one of the only folks in your community that are represented. That came up organically with just one woman sharing her feelings.”

Corpus said the discussion led to others sharing their experiences.

“People talked about how this group is important because it allows people to have a space where they could not only share their stories but be themselves,” he said.

Sometimes, Corpus said people in minority communities feel they must be or act a certain way to be accepted in work environments.

“So, spaces and opportunities like this in our group are one of the biggest reasons why we do it,” he said. “We want to help create visibility and opportunities for the Latino community. We want to let people know we exist – as a community, but also exist in different industries and are here to help.”

Corpus said this can happen through a variety of avenues – including resource connections, shared experiences or job opportunity notifications.

“By seeing folks in different professional roles they haven’t seen in the past, that creates an additional spark, or motivation for folks,” he said.

Talent attraction, retention
In a job market where more positions are open than there are people to fill them, Corpus said communities in the Northeast Wisconsin region need to continue to create opportunities.

“We want to keep the talent here,” he said. “Some families that have emigrated here – no matter where they came from – are growing and their children are having children. So, we need to create an environment where these expanding families can thrive and meet whatever expectations they have. Whatever someone wants to do – whether that’s going to college, becoming an entrepreneur, whatever it is – they should be able to recognize those opportunities are out there for them. For us to keep and make this region continue to thrive, we need to provide those tools to make that happen.”

Corpus said how professional success is defined has evolved over the years.

“Creating a network is important,” he said. “That means getting your name out there, developing relationships and meeting people in different industries. That’s something that’s woven into LPA, and what we’re trying to share with members.” 

With significant growth in a relatively short period of time, the leadership of LPA is also looking toward the next step in its growth.

Corpus said the LPA is partnering with the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, which will serve as the association’s fiscal agent.

“By leveraging them this way, we’ll be able to apply for grants and funding, which is going to help with the sustainability of this organization (long-term),” he said.

Corpus said the LPA would like to model the group after the successful Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.

“That’s not to say we’re looking to hire an executive director like they have,” he said. “But that might have to be something in our future to help us stay focused on our intentionality and to do the programming we want to do.”

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