"We are the advocates on the inside and we are the front door to the White House, which is a privilege that all of us take very seriously," says Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Carissa Smith. "We wake up every morning knowing that if we don't come and give our best, it likely won't happen."
Smith is among the Latinos who play a key role in the White House's Public Engagement team, which is responsible for creating and coordinating direct dialogue between the Biden-Harris administration and the diverse American public .
The team for sat down with LPO for an exclusive in-person interview.
"We are key in making sure that each constituency, each community has someone to talk to," Smith added. "We are their liaisons on the inside and the best way to run a democracy is to make sure you have boots on the ground. And the community is our boots on the ground."
A main component of their outreach efforts is focused on the Latino community.
Born and raised in Chiclayo, Peru, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Partnerships, Nathaly Maurice, explained that "my work is cross vertical for every consultancy, but we've done a lot with the Latino community- everything from briefings to Latino bloggers and influencers to celebrities."
"We understand that Latinos need to be spoken to intentionally often in their language and that means bilingual. We're not a monolingual community," she said.
"We've had Eugenio Derbez. Alejandro Fernandez and MANA did a video with Dr. Fauci. Our work at OP specifically is how do we use their microphones to get our message and resources out to the American public. We've had celebrities representing the diaspora from pretty much almost every country, which is exciting," said Maurice.
Originally from the state of Guerrero in Mexico, Ernesto Apreza is a Senior Advisor for Public Engagement and is responsible for keeping communities informed about the administration's policies.
"It's our responsibility to be the access point, for the people to the people's house. I hold a call every other week with representatives from national Latino organizations. We talk about what the White House is doing to increase access on vaccines and get updates from them on what they're doing to better reach community."
"From the very first day of this administration, the President has been guided by how do we make sure that we are thinking about policies in a way that advances racial equity and Latinos are a big part of that. With every policy, we keep in mind how it will impact or better the lives of Latino communities, from Florida all the way to Arizona. I think ultimately our job is to really underscore how much lives can improve with better leadership," said Apreza.
A proud Boricua originally from the Garden State - New Jersey - who worked on President Biden's campaign, Carissa Smith's work has a strong focus on women and girls.
"I'm under the leadership of the Gender Policy Council. It was an executive order that President Biden signed and the Gender Policy Council was launched for the first time ever under this administration The Office of Public Engagement partners with them specifically on their national gender equity strategy, which is due to the president's desk, right around September," she said.
"And they're all about the intersection of how do we provide a holistic policy changes and transformation policy for women and girls, especially women and girls of color who are often left out of policymaking," she added.
"This week, we had Latino girls all across the country join us for a Zoom meeting. It was really exciting. You had Texas, you had Puerto Rico. It was just really interesting to hear girls from the ages of 14 to 21 talk about the way that our government could work better for them. We've also worked with tribal indigenous girls and trans women. We have done the intersection of all the groups of women and girls whose voices need to be integrated into our policy making process."
The members of the Public Outreach team say they are fully aware that their roles are critical for the success of this administration.
"Likely our communities without us and without the intentionality of this President, making a space, a strategy, and an entire team, this building will never know what our communities are thinking. It's really a big privilege to be here," said Maurice.
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