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Maria Teresa Kumar
- Maria Teresa Kumar
- United States
- Political Activist
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In Maria Teresa Kumar’s work as a corporate and political consultant, she noticed that Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations alike were failing to connect with the fastest-growing demographic in the United States: young Latinos. “The largest influx of Latinos in this country are no longer immigrants, but children of immigrants,” says Maria Teresa. “Engaging this growing constituency in the American process is critical not only for American Latinos but to maintain a sound and healthy America.” Believing that Latinos can improve their quality of life by understanding the electoral process and electing leaders who have their best interests in mind, Maria Teresa co-founded Voto Latino in 2004 to increase this population’s involvement in civic life. Voto Latino, says Maria Teresa, was the first organization to recognize that many US-born Latinos identify themselves as American: “They want to be part of the system, only no one has asked them.”
Maria Teresa expanded Voto Latino from a public service announcement campaign to a full-fledged organization that leverages new media, technology, and celebrity spokespeople to mobilize Latino voters, encourage civic participation, and change negative cultural stereotypes. For the 2008 presidential election, Voto Latino registered over 30,000 voters in 5 states, reaching millions through platforms such as MySpace, YouTube, iTunes Latino, and MTV. Their work has received several accolades for its innovative use of technology, including two selections as a Webby Award honoree. Through these mainstream outlets, Maria Teresa and Voto Latino have reached youth organizations, progressive groups, private individuals, and the media, thereby bringing Latino issues into the national political conversation. Prior to her work at Voto Latino, Maria Teresa served as a legislative aide for former Democratic Caucus chair Vic Fazio, was associate director for new business development at Advisory Board Company, and founded Petersen Advisory, a political consulting firm. Named one of Hispanic magazine’s Top 60 Hispanic Women in Government and Politics in 2004, Maria Teresa is a founding board member of the Latino Leaders Network and PODER PAC and was a fellow at the National Hispana Leadership Institute in 2004. She earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2001 and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of California-Davis in 1997.