Twenty-four years ago, a study put facts and figures to one of the most diverse and too often miscategorized local communities: Latinos.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
The 1988 Hispanic Needs Assessment detailed population and historical information and surveyed opinions about needs and perceptions.
The long-overdue second study of the nine-county region is about to get under way.
The community has grown dramatically, from 39,500 in 1988 to 204,280 in 2010.
The greatest need highlighted by the past study educational attainment is probably going to emerge again. Nothing will move Latinos forward more than lower dropout rates and higher numbers of people with college degrees and/or competitive job skills.
The Latino Civic Engagement Collaborative commissioned the study and raised $70,000 to complete it by early 2013.
The University of Missouri-Kansas Citys Institute for Human Development will oversee surveying 500 people on a range of issues, including local government, police, voting and civic engagement.
Attitudes of high school juniors and seniors will be studied, with an eye toward increasing their civic engagement.
That matters in looking toward the regions future prosperity.
The Mid-America Regional Council recently hosted a presentation that drilled into some of the known demographic data for the metropolitan area, broken up by race and ethnicity.
The outlines highlighted the aging majority population and Latinos as a proportionally younger demographic, but one that has slid further into poverty in recent decades as other groups were relatively stable.
The data ought to send off alarm bells. And yet it would be inaccurate to focus solely on problems to form a comprehensive picture of Latinos here.
Organizers are clear that they want to highlight the communitys assets, along with its needs. In recent years, many social service agencies with a Latino focus have become more influential and politically savvy and have expanded to meet new needs.
Little progress has been made if Latinos are judged by numbers of City Council seats gained, school board positions won or increases in elected offices in general.
But there have been great strides made by the appointment of Latinos to important committees that drive government the local sports authority, the port authority, area transportation committees and the police board.
Thats having a seat at the table when it matters. Soon those individuals will have a more accurate picture of the community they often speak for.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.