Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida Evangelical Leaders Launch Young Voters' Outreach  

ORLANDO, FL - More than 2,000 Latinos gathered in Orlando this week to kick off a six-state campaign to mobilize young, evangelical Hispanic voters. They say the goal of Nuestro Futuro (New Future) is to let both political parties know they want a strong, secure future for young people.

The Latino vote will play a key role this year, both in Florida and across the nation, and as the Latino youth population continues to grow, this constituency is poised to become a powerful political force.

At the top of its agenda is sweeping immigration reform, including implementation of the Dream Act, a pathway for students of foreign-born parents to receive in-state college tuition. Such a student is Lucas DeSilva of Orlando.

"The Dream Act represents, to me, an opportunity - an opportunity to reach out for my future, to reach the stars, to exercise my dream."

Evangelical Latino organizations have said they favor immigration reform and have put both major political parties on notice that Hispanics are a rising political voice with which to contend.

Melanie Santiago is director of Young Adult Ministries for the Spanish District Assembly of God Churches in the southeastern states.

"We have a generation that's rising up - that is determined to just win this world, do whatever it takes outside the four walls of the church - and I'm ready for that. I'm going to be a partner with them, and do whatever it takes."

To harness that enthusiasm, they have launched Nuestro Futuro, a campaign to engage and work with youth leaders to turn out record numbers of Latino evangelical youth to the polls this year. In coming months, Santiago says the campaign will forge partnerships with hundreds of churches in five other key states to register new voters and to educate the broader community on the top issues facing young Hispanic evangelicals: poverty, immigration and education. The additional states are Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. 

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