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Latino innovators are coming to DC for #LATISM15

The three-day conference explores tech and social media as avenues for empowering the Latino community.

A session at a LATISM event. (Courtesy photo)

“It takes a village to raise a child,” the popular proverb goes, but Ana Roca Castro, founder of Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (generally referred to as LATISM), might say something similar about what it takes to start a business.
This spirit of community drives much of the work of LATISM, and will be front and center at the organization’s annual conference, Oct. 28-30 here in Washington, D.C.
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It can be hard to be an entrepreneur, Latino or otherwise, without the guidance of more experienced mentors. Roca Castro relishes the opportunity to create a network of mentors, potential funders and peers for Latino entrepreneurs and would-be innovators.
But facilitating the growth of a community is only part of what the LATISM conference is about.
“The goal of LATISM is to empower the Latino community in the areas of education, health, business and civic engagement through tech innovation and social media,” Roca Castro said. At the conference, this mission will be addressed in a number of ways.
The three-day event will begin with the first-ever Latino Youth Summit, during which 6th through 12th graders from around the country will display award-winning projects in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) fields.
The next two days will feature events in all of LATISM’s different focus areas — education, health, entrepreneurship and policy. In the education track, “teachers and educators will come and learn about the use of technology in the classroom,” said Roca Castro. This is another passion of Roca Castro’s — in addition to founding LATISM she’s the CEO of PreK12 Plaza, a company that seeks to use technology to level the playing field in education.
The health track will focus on how health organizations can and do use mobile technology and social media to reach the Latino community.
The tech entrepreneurship track will see entrepreneurs at various levels of their business development “networking and also learning from those who have gone through the journey,” according to Roca Castro. LATISM also aims to bring potential investors into this mix.
“The policy track is going to be focused on how to give a voice to the voiceless,” Roca Castro said, rounding out the lineup. This track will feature a one-day Top Influencers Retreat — a partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association. The retreat will provide advocacy and lobbying training to around 100 bloggers or other community figures identified as top influencers, many by virtue of their social media power. After the training, the participants will proceed to Capitol Hill to put everything they’ve learned into practice.
The idea behind this is, for Roca Castro, one of empowerment. It’s about empowering those with a strong voice to advocate for issues within the Latino community that they find important. “We don’t tell people what the important community issues are,” Roca Castro said. “But we want to make sure that they can use their voice as an instrument to educate their community and talk to leaders here in the Capitol.”
Beyond these four areas of focus, the conference will host a 36-hour hackathon aimed at sharing ideas, inspiration and solving a community issue through code. The hackathon is free to attend even without a conference ticket.
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LATISM15 is the organization’s seventh national conference, and its second held in D.C. “We hope to be back in D.C. more,” Roca Castro says. “The city is great for it’s vibrant tech landscape, policy connections and strong Latino community.”

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