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Bethlehem, Pa., May 92005—Reverend Luis A. Cortés Jr., Executive Director, Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia and President, Nueva Esperanza, Inc., will be the honored speaker at Moravian’s 263rd Baccalaureate Service, on Friday, May 13, at 5:30 p.m., in Central Moravian Church.
. Stacey Zaremba, associate professor of psychology, will serve as Marshal of Faculty. R. Daniel Libby, professor of chemistry, will serve as Marshal of Students. Dr. Ervin J. Rokke, president of Moravian College, will preside at the service. The Moravian Choir conducted by Dr. Paula Ring Zerkle will perform, with organist Adam P. Koch.
Beginning in Philadelphia with programs targeted to address the many unmet needs in Philadelphia’s Hispanic community, Cortés has become a leader in building Hispanic owned institutions nationwide. Esperanza USA is the largest Hispanic faith-based community development corporation in the country. Today, with a national network of 10,000 Hispanic faith and community based agencies; Esperanza USA is one of the leading voices for Hispanics in America.
In January 2005, Reverend Cortés was featured as one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals” and spoke at the National Prayer Service, the morning after the president Bush’s inauguration.
The cornerstone for Esperanza USA’s initiative is the Hispanic Capacity Project. With operations in Orlando, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Southern California, Northern and Southern New Jersey and Seattle, the project provides capacity building, technical assistance and small grants to Hispanic faith-based agencies.
In July, 2004 Esperanza USA launched Esperanza Trabajando (Hope is Working), an $11 million, 9-city 3-year project working with Latino at-risk and adjudicated youth. Funded by the Department of Labor, the project is transforming lives from unemployed aimlessness and a troubled future into career-oriented lifetime employment. The project will expand Esperanza USA’s operations to Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Houston.
Other Esperanza USA national projects include Hogares de Esperanza (Homes of Hope), a national homebuilding, mortgage and financial counseling initiative and Pacto de Esperanza (Pledge of Hope), a national HIV/AIDS education initiative.
Esperanza USA began in 1987 in Philadelphia when Reverend Cortés founded Nueva Esperanza. Today, the Philadelphia operations include a charter high school, a junior college, homebuilding, mortgage counseling and employment training programs. A $28 million economic development project is creating a Latino Corridor in North Philadelphia transforming vacant lots and abandoned buildings into a vibrant commercial corridor surrounding by new and renovated homes.
“It is the best case scenario—a group of churches working together,” says Cortés. Nueva. Esperanza provides housing, job training and employment, children’s summer camp, and education to those it serves. It has enjoyed great success, helping more than 1,200 Latino families buy their first homes, assisting more than 125 women get off welfare through its computer skills training program, and sending hundreds of underprivileged children to summer camp at its campground and retreat center.
“We do what we do because God asks us to, in the name of Christ,” explains Cortés. Doing God’s will is a constant source of encouragement for him. “That conviction [in God] gets me through the bad times. In good times, I rejoice that I am able to serve,” he says.
Cortés recently served as vice chair of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of Pittsburgh. Governor Rendell has nominated Cortés to the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority. Philadelphia Mayor John Street named Cortés to the City's Workforce Investment Board. Cortés is the founder and executive director of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia and also is one of the founders of the United Bank, the first African-American owned commercial bank in Pennsylvania.
Raised in Spanish Harlem, The Reverend Cortés credits his childhood experiences, a stable family life and the Latino faith community for his many successes. He has devoted his life to empowering others to acquire economic stability, so they in turn may encourage their families and communities to achieve those same goals. The Reverend Cortés graduated with honors from City College, NY, earned a Masters of Divinity as an Urban Theology Fellow from Union Theological Seminary, and an M.S. in Economic Development from New Hampshire College.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Moravian College Web site at http://www.moravian.edu. For more information on commencement at Moravian, visit http://www.moravian.edu/studentLife/commencement/index.htm