Turning family values into social impact

An interview with Angie Garcia Lathrop, member of Bank of America's Hispanic-Latino Executive Council

As a Community Affairs Executive, Angie Garcia Lathrop works closely with members of local communities across the United States to create economic, education and career opportunities. For Hispanic Heritage Month, she shares what inspires her work and why partnering at the neighborhood level is critical to creating sustainable, lasting success. 

Creating opportunity for the Hispanic-Latino community has been a part of Angie Garcia Lathrop’s life since before she can remember. At the height of the Mexican Revolution, bandits ran her grandmother’s family off their ancestral farm. Seeking a stable, long-term home, Socorro Hernandez and her sisters eventually settled in Tucson, AZ, where she found work as a seamstress at a local department store to help support her family.

Socorro quickly recognized the critical role education played in achieving opportunity in the United States. To help her children succeed, she instilled a vigorous work ethic and respect for learning that would reverberate beyond their own lives. Angie’s father took those lessons to heart and began a legacy of community commitment that Angie carries on today as Community Affairs Executive at Bank of America.

Below, Lathrop discusses what inspires her work with national nonprofits, why it’s important to create economic mobility for low- and middle- income families, and what her grandmother might have achieved if she had access to education and economic opportunity.

Family plays an essential role in Hispanic-Latino communities. How has your family shaped who you are today?
My grandmother and father made me the person I am today. The examples they set resonate in everything I do.

My dad was a trailblazer: first in his family to learn English, graduate high school, serve in the military and go to college. He attended law school as one of the first two Mexican-American law students at the University of Arizona. In his early days as an attorney, my dad – along with 12 other lawyers – founded MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

His passion is a testament to the teachings of my grandmother, whom we affectionately called ‘nana.’ If she had been born in a different time, she’d be running a company like Bank of America today. She was an entrepreneur in her day--working as a seamstress at the local department store and running a sewing business out of her house. But she never had access to formal schooling, so it was very difficult for her to advance her career much further.

How do their experiences inspire you?
It never crossed my mind that I would follow in my dad’s footsteps. Yet, in reflection, that’s exactly what I have done. By watching my father serve, I learned to appreciate what service means, and the role nonprofits have in making our communities better and stronger.

As I’ve matured throughout my career, I think I’ve grown and learned what it means to be an advocate for nonprofits that are uplifting the Hispanic-Latino community.

What does your day-to-day work at the bank entail?
I meet with national nonprofits--some of which represent Latino families--to learn, listen and evaluate the issues raised or the opportunities presented. Then, I connect them to the leaders at the Bank who are uniquely positioned to address these problems and build solutions.

My work focuses on supporting the Bank’s commitment to help advance the economic mobility for low- and moderate individuals and communities facing challenges in achieving financial stability. In total, last year Bank of America invested $13.7 million in economic development, social justice, workforce training, and cultural initiatives that support the Hispanic-Latino community--including investing $1 million annually in UnidosUS skills-training program, “Latinos In Finance,” that fosters a diverse Spanish-speaking pipeline in the financial industry.

What does empowering and advancing minorities in the workplace look like?
I’m really proud of our partnership with UnidosUS. We created a workforce development program that trains bilingual talent in local markets we serve and prepares them for roles in financial services, including Bank of America. To date we have more than 100 new associates working in our financial and client contact centers across nine markets. They’re growing with us and developing as leaders, bringing their full selves to work every day.

Any final words of wisdom for those who want to make a difference in their communities?
Commit to education. I witnessed its power in the path my father carved for himself and his community. Aside from the power of education, the number one thing I tell women in the communities I work with, especially Latinas, is: value yourself.

9/26/19


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