The actor, producer and activist Wilmer Valderrama, better known as Fez in “That ’70s Show,” is becoming a prominent voice for Latinos, promoting the value of education and the importance of the Latino vote.
“There is a big disconnect between what we teach our kids in high school and how we prepare them to actually maximize college,” the 32-year-old actor told VOXXI.
Valderrama, who currently stars as Detective Efrem Vega in “Awake,” serves as the official spokesman for The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) Ready to Lead (R2L) college readiness program, appearing at workshops and in public service announcements and other media campaigns to promote higher education for Latino youth.
VOXXI interviewed Valderrama during his recent visit to Miami at the CHCI and NBCs News’ “Education Nation” summit, titled Keeping the Promise: Partnerships for Latino Education Success.
Valderrama and actor Tony Plana, who was America Ferrer’s father on ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” hosted a panel titled “Young Latino Perspective — In Their Own Voices,” featuring a group of dynamic and motivated high school and college students who discussed the obstacles they have experienced while pursuing their academic goals. Some of the students described transitioning from other countries to the U.S. and facing cultural and language challenges.
The key takeaway from the panel, according to Valderrama: There is a lot of work to be done in the Latino community when it comes to education. The main issues for these young Latinos were the cost of education and the lack of structure in the system.
“As a Latino community, we lack conviction, we lack confidence. We don’t understand how powerful our culture and our numbers could be…we have to understand that our roots are what makes us special and unique,” Valderrama said.
Valderrama is also involved in Voto Latino, educating and empowering Latinos to vote. With his various advocacy projects, Valderrama is positioning himself as a role model for the Latino youth.
Its up to the vibrant Latino community to harness this power, if they do “we can also achieve great things,” Valderrama tells VOXXI.
Valdarerrama, a multifaceted and multicultural actor
The Miami-born actor of Venezuelan and Colombian descent moved to Venezuela at the age of three and then to Los Angeles at the age of thirteen. High school was a challenge for him because he didn’t speak English. He attributes education for his success and thanks his parents’ persistence and support.
With a multifaceted career that includes being the voice of “Manny Garcia” in Disney’s animated bilingual children’s show “Handy Manny,” starring in Tom Hanks’ movie “Larry Crown,” producing “The Ricardo Laguna Project” and appearing in LMFAO’s mega hit “Sexy and I know it” video, it appears that Valderrama is ready for anything.