HISPA was established in 1984 as the Hispanic Association of AT&T Employees, providing outreach programs for Latinos throughout the US. The organization was incorporated in 1986 and became a 501(c)(3) in 1993. Organizational bylaws were modified by 2005, making both the “HISPA” name official and allowing non-AT&T members to fully participate in the organization. In 2006, the AT&T-SBC merger united these companies’ respective Hispanic Employee Resource Groups as AT&T HACEMOS, a new organization under which membership was once again made exclusive to AT&T employees. HISPA leadership decided to keep the 501(c)(3) organization intact to continue its community involvement and in 2007 unanimously voted to become the independent non-profit it is today: Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement.
HISPA is staffed by 2 full-time and 2 part-time consultants, 3 interns, and 1 volunteer. HISPA’s Board of Directors consists of 9 directors and 3 officers. HISPA is also supported by an Advisory Council of experts in subjects like public relations and diversity/inclusion.
HISPA’s mission is to inspire Latino students’ academic achievement by mobilizing Latino professionals to volunteer as active roles models in educational programs within their communities. Our target population is Hispanic/Latino middle school students, particularly in New Jersey, New York City, and San Antonio. Serving this population is crucial as many Latinos have high aspirations but doubt their abilities: nearly 90% say college is important to success yet only half—48%—plan to enroll. Unless students believe they can succeed, they are at increased risk of dropping out. Indeed, Hispanics ages 16-24 account for 40% of high school dropouts yet only make up 17% of the total youth population. To reduce dropout rates, intervention is needed as early as middle school; in fact, research suggests this age represents a critical moment to increase awareness of educational and career opportunities. Relatedly, there is a strong correlation between students having a role model and their pursuit of higher education.
HISPA serves students via the Role Model Program, Youth Conferences, and Corporate Visits. The Role Model Program pairs volunteers with local middle schools in which Latino students are the majority. During the course of 6 in-school visits, about 12 role models emphasize the importance of higher education and share their professional experiences. Our Youth Conferences unite students and role models from Latino Employee Resource Groups on a university campus for a day of hands-on exploration of STEM-focused career options. Corporate Visits allow students to see where our sponsors work and explore careers with that corporation. Together, our programs expose students to career awareness/college readiness information as well as corporate and academic cultures, providing both the education and motivation necessary for academic and professional success. Our partner schools report that HISPA is key to establishing a college-going culture; our research—developed and analyzed with our partner ETS—shows that HISPA has a positive impact on student attitude towards college and career.
To offer our services, HISPA coordinates the logistics between Role Models and partnering organizations. This model enables busy professionals to participate in a simple, flexible program that fits their schedules. To date, we have engaged the support of over 2,000 Hispanic professionals. We built this pool of volunteers by developing strategic alliances with local and national groups from both public and private sectors, including: AT&T, BMS, J & J, Latinos in Information Science and Technology, Merck, Microsoft, National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), New Jersey Institute of Technology, Novartis, PNC Bank, Princeton University, Samsung, Siemens, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Stevens Institute of Technology, UPS, Verizon, and Wells Fargo. This network of professionals makes HISPA is a powerful tool for early intervention, uniting middle school students with role models who share their culture and community, who emphasize the importance of college, and who link students to thousands of professionals and universities.
HISPA recognition includes: New Jersey Hispanic Leadership Association Education Award (2014); Princeton University Service Award for exemplary service and dedicated leadership (2013); Latino Institute 2013 award for supporting Latino students at all levels; New Jersey Institute of Technology Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Educator of the Year Award (2012); Verizon Hispanic Support Organization Community Service Award (2012); Save Latin America, Inc. Tres Próceres Award (2011); and New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center Distinguished Maria De Castro Blake Outstanding Community Service Award (2010). Diaz-Claisse, president and CEO, was also inducted into Trenton YWCA’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014.