Author:de la Vega, Ralph

The next generation of Hispanics is going to be hugely influential in this country. They are young. They make up 25% of all schoolchildren ages K-12. They are better educated and are more acculturated. And they have the potential to become the most productive and most influential generation of Hispanics in U.S. history. But potential is not a guarantee.

Many are first or second-generation U.S. Hispanics. Many are the first in their family to attend or even graduate from college. And many lack the family and professional bridges that traditionally make it easy for one successful generation to pass the confidence and the ability to succeed onto the next. But they have us.

Enter today's influential

It's easy to forget what an impact each of us can have in a young person's life. But the fact is this: When a young person looks up and sees a successful individual who looks like them, who talks like them, and who tells them that success is achievable, the impact is life changing. My bet is that each and every one of the influentials in this issue can think of a time when they were so impacted. I know I can. It's time for us to return the favor.

A bridge to success

We can provide the one thing that the next generation of Latinos still lacks: a bridge to success. While many of us are already mentoring and helping young people in a number of ways, there are still a lot younger people out there who could use our help.

We must redouble our efforts to reach out to the next generation and find ways to make our influence more impactful in their lives.

* First, by helping them get a solid education. Too many Hispanics are enrolling in school and college but not graduating. We must help them graduate with a passion for lifetime learning and we must steer them toward sustainable jobs so they are not easily phased out by future technological advancements.

* Second, by providing opportunities for them to develop as fully engaged citizens. That means more than voting, serving on juries, and abiding by the law, important as these are. It also means getting involved...

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