Ontario man focuses on diversity

By Pat Caldwell
The Enterprise
ONTARIO – For Gustavo Morales, helping his community isn’t just a nice catch phrase.
It’s a way of life.
His devotion to helping bridging cultures recently earned the 25-year-old Ontario resident an appointment to the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Gov. Kate Brown made the appointment. Morales joined the seven-member board in September. Morales, who is the executive director of Euvalcree, a Latino-based advocacy group in Ontario, said he pondered the decision to join the board carefully.
“I didn’t want to go into something and not be able to make a full commitment,” said Morales.
He said he considered the opportunity for six months before deciding it was the right move.
His path to becoming a community advocate began in medical school. Morales started in 2012 but by the end of his first year, he said doubted whether he wanted to pursue a career as a doctor.
“I realized the healthcare and medical system was not what I hoped it would be,” said Morales.
Still, Morales said he continued on with his medical studies but decided just before his third year of school to pursue master’s degree in business administration at Boise State University.
As he worked on his MBA, Morales said the idea to create Euvalcree began to evolve.
“I later came to realize it was work that I very much enjoyed,” said Morales. Morales said the diversity of a community can be its greatest strength.
“The truth is each culture, each person, comes with different assets. So rather than trying to change people to fit into a box we need to leverage all the assets of community members to help us move forward and thrive economically,” said Morales.
“It is not about changing people’s minds but helping people understand and understand each other,” he said. “We don’t have to agree but as long as we can understand each other as to why we disagree, that is what matters,” said Morales.
His work as the executive director of Euvalcree for the past two years centered on helping the underserved and underrepresented population of Malheur County. While Euvalcree is a Latino-based organization, Morales said its goal is to advocate for all groups to create a better community.
He takes that focus to the Hispanic Affairs Commission.
“To be considered and appointed by the governor is not only a huge responsibility but also a huge commitment to the people and the integrity of the work we will do going forward,” said Morales.
The position is important, he said, because of the commission’s stature within Oregon government.
“The commission is a strong advocacy voice in the state. It works directly with the executive branch of our state and it has a lot of opportunity to really address issues,” said Morales.
The seven-member board traces its origins to the Commission on Chicano Affairs created in 1971 by Gov. Tom McCall to pinpoint concerns and improve working conditions of the state’s Hispanic population.
The commission’s focus is to strive for equality – economic, social, legal and political – for the state’s Hispanic population.
Morales said he feels that the struggle for equality and healthy communities can’t be placed in a box that holds just one ethnic group.
“We want to create a bridge of understanding so we can build off similar values to make a stronger community,” said Morales.
Morales said whatever one’s ethnic background, all of us strive to meet certain goals.
“Values overlap. We can, for the most part, all agree on having a better community, a safe environment for our children and families,” he said.
Morales said he would continue to work to connect different cultures to create a better community.
And medical school?
“I often get asked if I will ever go back to medical school. I have always wanted to help people, my community and my family. Being a doctor was a way that I believed I could do that. The work that I am currently doing not only allows me to help more people, our community and families, it provides an opportunity to leverage community as an asset,” said Morales.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377