Make your home page

Peruvian-American helps thousands, leads longest-serving Indiana Hispanic group

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Hispanic organization is pushing to get more Spanish-speaking students and professionals to shape Indiana communities.

The woman leading this effort is the president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Latino Institute. Marlene Dotson, a Latina, is passionate about serving her community.

The Indiana Latino Institute is the oldest statewide Hispanic organization.

“We want these students not only enrollment, but also complete whether it’s a two to four years and successfully connect them to good jobs,” Dotson said.

Dotson has turned her struggles as an immigrant from Peru into opportunities that elevate Hispanic students statewide.

“With no language I didn’t know how to speak. I didn’t have financial resources, no family. I didn’t understand the system. Basically, I started from zero,” Dotson said.

She was inspired by the American Dream.

“Until you arrive here you realize that it’s totally a different world in every aspect that you can think,” Dotson said.

Since 2011, under her leadership, the Indiana Latino Institute has received more than $17 million to provide educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Each year, the organization hosts a statewide education summit and college and career fair where thousands of students find help with financial aid and college application processes.

Dotson also created the Indiana Latino Leadership Circle program. It identifies and mentors emerging Hispanic leaders by connecting them with influential community professionals.

“We have rising star Latinos today and with so much pride I can say we have Latinos, we have professionals in different fields that happen to be Latinos and they are ready to be placed in different c-suite levels,” Dotson said.

On top of that, the organization recently received a $1 million grant from IU Health to support college enrollment, internship opportunities, and workforce development for Hispanic students.

“One of the priorities is health care, but also we will be providing internships to other fields, supporting fields, other careers. So, this is another milestone that has not been seen, but we will be connected with other partners to do this work.”

“Today, I can call myself successful, but that successful is not only for myself. It’s also how we can pour that success into our community and those that need it the most.”

This year, Dotson was honored with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and Indiana Minority Business Magazine’s Champion of Diversity Award and while Dotson has had many successes she says there’s still a lot of work to be done.

March is Women’s History Month and, each week, News 8 will be highlighting stories of women who are making a positive impact on the community.