Evelyn Barahona, a Northeastern graduate with an international business degree, has been chosen to lead and grow a new philanthropic fund designed to address longstanding inequities in the Massachusetts Latino community—issues that came into sharper focus after last year’s economic and health crises.
The Latino Equity Fund aims to raise $10 million over the next three years to invest in Latino businesses and organizations, says Barahona.
“If you have a large community that’s growing but they’re not really prospering, society ends up losing out,” says Barahona. “We want to help this underserved group prosper, which really can help the state as well.”
The fund has already started to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Latino community. The state has vaccinated fewer Hispanics, the members of the Latino community who are descended from Spanish-speaking countries, than other ethnic groups. Only 43 percent of Hispanics had received one dose as of June 3, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Meanwhile, 63 percent of residents of Asian descent, 45 percent of Black residents, and 62 percent of white Massachusetts residents have received at least one vaccination, according to recent state records.
“COVID-19 and the lack of vaccine access only exacerbates the health care disparities facing the Latino community,” says Eneida Roman-Olivieri, co-founder of Amplify Latinx. Barahona serves on the board of the organization, which seeks to increase opportunities and political clout for the Latino community
“This equity fund is something that’s not only historic for Greater Boston, but it’s a unique opportunity to build more Latino influence while closing opportunity gaps that have plagued our community and became so evident, unfortunately, as COVID unfolded,” says Roman-Olivieri.
“When I saw that Evelyn was named the director of this program I figured that this is an extraordinary opportunity for her and for the fund because she brings just so much knowledge and experience working with the community,” says Roman-Olivieri. Barahona worked with Prospanica, a national organization that helps Latino professionals, in addition to her time with Amplify Lantinx.
“All of that experience combined with her emotional intelligence and her passion for driving change for Latinos in Massachusetts and beyond makes her a perfect fit,” says Roman-Olivieri.
The Boston Foundation, the organization behind the Latino Equity Fund, raises funds from key community stakeholders and directs donations to those in need. The foundation started an earlier version of the fund in 2013, but after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted ongoing health and economic inequities, the fund’s advisory board decided to expand its philanthropic focus to benefit Latino communities across Massachusetts.
“The Latino community is growing at a very rapid rate, and when you think about it long term, you want to make sure they’re positioned to be economically prosperous, because prosperity for them also means prosperity for Boston and prosperity for Boston means prosperity for Massachusetts,” says Barahona.
Barahona says her experience at Northeastern played a key role in helping her land the job.
“If you’re at Northeastern, you’re likely very curious, you use practical applications and you’re also very entrepreneurial,” says Barahona. She says that her co-op experiences made her realize she wanted to work in philanthropy and gave her the courage to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
So when Barahona attended an event where former Boston Foundation vice president Robert Lewis spoke about the organization, she knew she wanted to work there.
“I don’t know why, maybe I just had too much coffee that day, but I raised my hand afterward and asked, ‘How do I get a job with you?’’’ says Barahona. “He was a little bit taken aback, but he gave me his card and set up some meetings with leaders at The Boston Foundation.”
She didn’t get a job right away, but the connections Barahona made paid off. The Boston Foundation reached out to Barahona following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2018 and hired her to help manage the Puerto Rico fund, which directed $4 million to nonprofits serving Puerto Ricans in Massachusetts.
“My advice to students would be to network with an open mind,” says Barahona, who is involved with several Boston area groups, including serving as Board Chair at Conexion, a Latino leadership organization.
“Curiosity and the desire to learn from people has helped me far more in my career than targeted networking,” says Barahona.
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