Forum to address needs, contributions of Latinos

County Hispanic population is 3rd-largest in state

October 11, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,SUN REPORTER

An unprecedented number of Latinos have flocked to Baltimore County in the past few years, making the county's Latino population the third-largest in the state, according to recent census data.

The growing population -- and its unique needs and contributions to the community -- will be the subject of a county Police Department-sponsored forum tonight at the Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus.

"The county was not always aware how many people from the Hispanic community are part of their population," said Eduardo D. Hayden, the Hispanic-Latino liaison to the county's Ethnic Diversity Advisory Council. "I think now its becoming an issue that we don't have all the resources we need."

More than 130 county government officials, community leaders, business owners and nonprofit employees are expected to attend tonight's event, said Officer Carlos Selvi, the Hispanic-Latino liaison for the Baltimore County police and the forum's organizer.

A short networking session will be followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from several county agencies will answer questions from audience members.

"People are starting to realize the county is willing to do more to reach out to the Latino community in general," said Hayden.

At similar forums in the past, participants have called for more Latinos working in county government and the school system, as well as for an office dedicated to the needs of the Latino population, he said.

Improving the high school graduation rate for Latinos and increasing the number of students going on to college also are among the goals, Hayden said.

More than 21,000 Latinos lived in Baltimore County last year, an increase of more than 50 percent from the 2000 population, according to data released in August by the U.S. census.

But the population is far from uniform, Latino leaders said. The county's Latino residents come from Mexico, Central America and South America and live various areas of the county from Dundalk to Cockeysville to Owings Mills.

Some are here legally, and some are not. Some are physicians and corporate executives, others are day laborers.

"The common thread is we're all hoping to work for each other," Hayden said.

Maria Welch, president of the Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said that the number of Latino-owned businesses in the county is "growing like crazy."

Events such as tonight's forum draw attention to the positive changes that Latinos bring to the county, she said.

Added Welch: "We've been here for awhile, but now they're starting to see the effects of our community's contributions."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

If you go

The forum, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex campus, Building J, Room J-137. Those planning to attend should RSVP to Officer Carlos Selvi at 410-887-2319 or by e-mail to cselvi@baltimorecountymd.gov.

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