WTOP is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15. All this month, discover stories from the diverse Latino communities in the D.C. region, here at WTOP.com and on air at WTOP-FM.
In Prince George’s County, the newly hired Latino Affairs Liaison is bringing nearly 20 years of experience into the role.
Enter Samantha Howard.
Howard was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and said she remembers coming to Prince George’s County in 1990 when she was 7-years-old. She graduated from Largo High School, and then went on to attend Prince George’s Community College and earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Global Campus.
“I came into Prince George’s County when the county was transitioning demographically and [I] was probably one of the few Hispanics that had come into the county,” Howard told WTOP. “I was always the first or the only.”
But Howard said that has changed a lot over the last two decades and she’s excited to continue to grow with the community. Howard’s time at Prince George’s Community College didn’t end after her associate degree — she then served as the coordinator of recruitment and community relations at PGCC for more than 15 years.
“My career evolved from one-on-one student recruitment, to program development to changing policy,” Howard said. “We used to charge DACA and undocumented students out-of-state tuition based on their legal residency. And we were able to change that so that DACA and undocumented students could receive residency based on their physical residency … which was huge for our community.”
Howard said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join Prince George’s County’s Executive Office to do the same work on a larger scale. She said her main goal is for all Hispanic and Latino residents in the county to feel seen, included and heard.
“Every population has a particular need, every population has a particular desire of how they want to experience their life here in Prince George’s County,” Howard said. “And that’s part of the work that I’ll be doing. I’ll be taking on listening to those concerns, listening to those desires and finding ways to bridge the gap between the services that we need and deserve, and the services that are offered through the county government.”
To get the job done, Howard said a “one size fits all” approach won’t work because of the diversity within the community. It is her hope to reach all nine districts and hear what their main concerns are as Latinos living in the county.
“I think the biggest thing that I want to do is create visibility,” Howard said. “I want the community to know that I’m here and to know who I am and what I stand for and what we’re doing, and what our goals are and how to become engaged with that. And to just build those relationships. I’m personally invested in this work, because at the end of the day, I am the community.”
County executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Howard’s new role on Sept. 7.
“With her background, knowledge, and expertise, we are confident that she will support our continued efforts to further connect with our County’s Hispanic/Latino community,” wrote Alsobrooks in a news release.
“Throughout this administration, we have remained committed to ensuring that our County Government represents all communities, and we will continue our collective efforts to support the needs of all who call this great County home,” Alsobrooks said.
If you want to meet Howard, she invites you to the annual Parks & Recreation Hispanic Festival this Sunday to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.
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