Today, about 30% of Arizona’s total population identifies as Hispanic or Latino*; in fact, Arizona is one of the top four states in terms of Hispanic population.
Within this large, diverse community, there is also economic hardship. According to the SRP-sponsored 2020 DATOS report provided annually by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the poverty rate for Hispanic or Latino individuals in the state sits at 19%. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for white individuals is 9%.
The ¡Hablamos SRP! Employee Resource Group (ERG), one of the company’s oldest and largest, aims to help address that gap. First, it facilitates networking and development opportunities for Hispanic and Latino employees and their allies within SRP, offering more chances for advancement and economic opportunity. It also raises money for local causes through events such as the annual Salsa Challenge and other fundraising efforts.
One of the programs the ERG has supported in the past is the Centro De La Familia, which is housed at Chicanos Por La Causa’s Maryvale Community Service Center. The Centro provides behavioral health services to the traditionally underserved West Phoenix Hispanic community.
Erika Castro, a Senior Community Engagement Strategist at SRP, is also the Chair of ¡Hablamos SRP!. She explained that these fundraisers are a core part of how the group interacts inside and outside of SRP.
“Giving back to the community is a cornerstone of SRP’s history and that’s why it has also been tradition for ¡Hablamos SRP! to engage with nonprofits,” she said. “The nonprofits we select not only represent our membership base but [also] provide access and equity with their services.”
Providing a vital service
With financial support from groups like ¡Hablamos SRP! and a dedicated and passionate staff, Roberto Del Real, MSW, BHT, an Adult and Youth Clinician at the Centro, said the Centro has been able to continue its important work.
“We had a family with three siblings whose parents divorced,” said Del Real. “With some of the funds Hablamos raised, we were able to do an expressive art therapy group to help the kids express themselves.”
He continued, “Not all kids do well in 1:1 therapy, so that was a big game changer. They could come in, and while they weren’t able to talk about their emotions, they could paint. They were struggling with their home life, and it really helped.”
Working together for a brighter future
SRP and ¡Hablamos SRP! celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month under the theme “Juntos por un mejor Arizona”: Together for a better Arizona.
Castro’s commitment to service – both as the Chair of the ERG and with her strong focus on fundraising for community partners – embodies this spirit.
“For me, giving back to the community is personal since I was a product of the public school system and a first-
This commitment has led to Castro becoming deeply involved with her communities outside of Hablamos
, as well. She serves on the Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year Committee along with the Chicanos Por La Causa Esperanza Latino Teacher Awards Committee.
She explained, “As a child, I often heard that education was the key to success, and I can personally attest that my success can be attributed to a lifelong learning mentality and many teachers who believed in me.”
She is also a part of the small community in which she lives, volunteering for the Chandler Cultural Foundation and commission for the City of Chandler and the Public Policy Committee for the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
“Growing up in a small community also inspired me to always know what is going on locally. That can have an impact on your community,” she said.
Castro’s involvement at SRP, with Hablamos, across the Valley and in her local community is making a difference, directly in line with SRP’s Hispanic Heritage Month theme.
“Our theme, ‘Juntos por un mejor Arizona,’ embodies the work that SRP does for the community, the work that we do as an Employee Resource Group and the passion I have along with my fellow ERG members to make Arizona a better place than how we found it,” she said.
*According to WorldPopulationReview.com