On behalf of Saint Luke’s College, President Benitez attends the 2018 Latino Coalition Legislative Summit and holds meetings in Capitol Hill and White House

During the first week of March, I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Latino Coalition Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. The Latino Coalition is an organization committed to building capacity and advocating on behalf of the Hispanic community on critical issues including, immigration and tax reform, health care, education, business and others. Given the current educational landscape and the issues that affect the workforce, current and future students and the Latino community at large, the College’s Board Chairman and I understood the importance of having a presence at the summit. 

My participation was primarily as the College’s President and CEO, but also as a member of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. Speakers at the summit included among others, the President of the United States, Donald Trump; U.S Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao; U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta; U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27). It was a consensus that it will be critically important to have ongoing engagement with the President and administration officials on the issues that matter to the Hispanic community, as the Latino community embodies the pioneering spirit of America.

In addition to attending the Summit, a small group of representatives from Kansas City, including myself, were invited to meet with Senator Claire McCaskill (MO) and Congressman Kevin Yoder (KS). As the College President, I focused my comments and questions on the issues affecting youth; students, including those “Dreamers” protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In addition, we discussed access to health care, rising health care costs, access to education, and models to diversify the workforce with Senator McCaskill. She expressed her commitment to continue to work with her constituents to address these topics.

I want to make special mention of the cordialness felt during an extensive meeting we had with Congressman Yoder. Regardless of the political affiliation of those within the group visiting Congressman Yoder, he was open to hearing and was attentive to the different perspectives on the issues discussed. We were also joined by Congressman Carlos Curbelo to discuss the importance of a well-educated workforce, and the imperative need to create bridges that increase access to education and the tools needed by our diverse student bodies. This included hearing different perspectives on DACA/ Dreamer students. 

After the meeting with Mr. Curbelo, Congressman Yoder provided us with the opportunity to have a very extensive, frank and open discussion with him on all the issues we felt were relevant to our communities. While Saint Luke’s College is an institution of higher learning in a neighboring state, he understood that our College served students from both Missouri and Kansas, and most importantly, that our graduates are the new workforce for the bi-state region. I thank Congressman Yoder for his collegiality during our visit to Capitol Hill.