While Lucas Baradello ’10 tackles Chinese and Arabic classes and plays for the club soccer team, he has also taken on a struggle that, in his opinion, transcends other academic and extracurricular activities: fighting the base conditions facing immigrant youth.
Baradello is the co-founder and managing director of Juvenis, a California nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide internet-based educational and professional resources to disadvantaged immigrant youth.
“It’s going to be the cleanest, [best]-organized, most useful scholarship, internship and information database using the latest web technologies,” he said.
Baradello, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Argentina, started the organization with his brother Federico Baradello ’05 in 2004. Federico is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the London School of Economics.
“U.S. Hispanics have the highest dropout rates, and these are young people who live in the most socioeconomically deprived backgrounds,” Federico said.
Explaining that this “creates a perfect-storm situation. They need information that has been vetted and that has a quality-control seal of approval. The goal is to provide high-quality information for young, ambitious ... kids to best prepare them for their future careers,” he said.
Juvenis, which means “youth” in Latin, is currently being developed. Its ultimate goal is to give an online community of users easy access to information databases that can help them achieve upward mobility. The website is expected to launch this fall.
Lucas noted that on his high school graduation day, many of his second-generation Hispanic-American friends expressed regret at the lack of access to information and resources that would have allowed them to see the bigger picture and encouraged them to maintain high grades. Not being informed prevented them from accessing free SAT tutoring and scholarships.
“Compared to their Asian-American and Caucasian counterparts, Hispanic Americans are not doing that well. And that’s a fact,” Baradello said. “[Juvenis] takes the time to really consider this from a student’s perspective.”
Though initially inspired to target Latino youth by California’s changing demographics — Hispanic Americans currently comprise 35 percent of the state population and are predicted to reach 50 percent of that population in the next decade — Juvenis’ founders expanded its mission to serve all immigrant youth.
“Clearly it’s very difficult for immigrant children to find such opportunities, and I think it’s good that [Lucas] expanded it. Immigration is a big issue, clearly, because there’s so many [immigrants]. It’s a great way to help them out,” Lucas’ longtime friend Ota Amaize ’10 said.
“I think that [Juvenis] fills a need. Lucas has a vision, and knowing him personally, I know that he will fulfill it. Lucas sincerely cares about other people and helping them out, so I’m not surprised that he started this,” Deborah Chang ’10 said.
“Princeton is a really ripe environment to develop and incubate these ideas,” Frederico said.
“My brother is very eager to share the work,” he said, adding that he believes “this is a better way for any undergraduate to spend a few hours a week than any other extracurricular activity on campus because if this is done well, this is something that can have real, tangible results on a massive scale.”
Dennis Markatos-Soriano GS, a second-year MPA student in the Wilson School, also founded a nonprofit of his own called Students United for a Responsible Global Environment while an undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998.
Though he admits that he is “no expert on immigration,” Markatos-Soriano said that “it sounds like [Juvenis] is making a great use of the internet. This is leveling the playing field in terms of information, especially for immigrants who need that information in terms of getting ahead.”
In a dinner discussion about nonprofits at Whitman College last month, Markatos-Soriano said that “if you have a dream ... I think you should try to start that organization.”
Lucas spends up to 20 hours every week researching and compiling information for the Juvenis database, applying for funding and working with programmers.“I just end up losing sleep. I’m not very good at balancing my time. We’re at the bottom of a hill right now, and it keeps going up in terms of work requirement and time requirement,” Lucas said. “Fortunately, it’s getting a lot more fun.”
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