Reaching Out to Latinos

September 15, 2009

Yasmin Yaver, B.A. ’05, is helping to launch a GW association for Latino alumni.

By Menachem Wecker

Growing up in New Jersey, Yasmin Yaver was used to being surrounded by a large Hispanic population. It’s a sense of community she wants to foster at GW by creating the University’s first alumni association targeted at Latinos.

Yaver, who is now senior policy advisor to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), recently helped launch the GW Latino Alumni Association, which was officially created in 2008.

“We are working on building the association, putting in place a governing structure and getting folks to join,” she says. “Our goals for the Latino Alumni Association include supporting GW in attracting and retaining Latino students and providing a network through which we can keep in touch,” she says.

Yaver grew up in an ethnically diverse household. Her mother is Puerto Rican, and her father, of Lebanese descent, was born in Colombia. “Everyone in my family is mixed. We have Dominicans, Egyptians, Iranians – you name it,” Yaver says.

“It was a lot of fun growing up. At holidays we had both pernil [Spanish for roast pork] and grape leaves to eat and danced to salsa, meringue and Arab music,” she remembers.

Yaver chose GW for its location in Washington and for its “beautiful and modern” campus. “I liked the fact it was in the middle of a city, rather than in an isolated location,” she says. She chose the public policy major hoping it would prepare her for a government career, and it did exactly that.

“Most of the classes I took taught me how to think more critically, to really delve into an issue and understand it well, which is very important in a Senate office where you are constantly given tons of information, and you have to pick and choose the important points,” she says.

After graduating from GW, Yaver worked for two-and-a-half years in Sen. Menendez’s office as a legislative aide, before accepting a job as deputy policy director at the House Democratic Caucus, where she worked for now White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “He was a great boss, exciting, smart, funny, eccentric and sarcastic all at the same time,” she says. “I learned a lot working for him and still miss it very much.”

After a year at the caucus, Yaver accepted a position at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she was associate director of government affairs. She moved back to Sen. Menendez’s office last July.

She now looks forward to helping Latino alumni establish a voice at GW. “We want to make a difference,” she says. “One of our main goals is to ensure Latino students are able succeed at GW and provide a solid network after they leave.”

The GW Latino Alumni Association will host a kick-off event on Oct. 3 from 3 – 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs Building. Association representatives will also be at the Multicultural Alumni Happy Hour on Oct. 1 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Ozio, 1813 M Street, NW.

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