Adjunct professor La Mikia Castillo said it can be hard to find a space where she “fits in,” due to her Afro-Latina identity. Castillo works to bridge her two communities, since she thinks members of both face similar issues. (Sarah Johnson| Daily Trojan)Born and raised in South L.A., alumna and adjunct professor La Mikia Castillo strives to make a difference in communities in need by focusing on public policy and urban planning.“I grew up in a low-income community,” Castillo said. “It wasn’t until that I got to college when I realized that my community didn’t have access to the same resources as other communities.”Castillo received her bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego, where she said she noticed a stark contrast in access to resources among her peers.“When I began to see the disparities between what I had access to and what my friends from home had access to versus my peers in college, I realized that there was something wrong there and I wanted to change it,” she said. In college, Castillo learned that communities looked the way they do due to policies implemented by policymakers and urban planners, who decide which areas certain populations will be placed in. “I became a community organizer because I really wanted to work on organizing community members to learn what I had learned in college and use that information to change the community, to actually advocate for policies that would be positive for us,” Castillo said.As a graduate student at the Price School of Public Policy, Castillo founded the Black Student Association at Price after noticing that there was a need for black students to speak about issues that impact the black community. In addition, she was a board member of the Latino Student Association at Price.“[These groups] were very meaningful for me because as a person who identifies as black and Latina, sometimes it’s hard to find the space where I feel like I fit in, where I can be my whole self,” Castillo said. “I’ve always been involved in black student organizations and Latinx student organizations and then act as a bridge between them because I think that issues our communities face are so similar, that it makes sense for us to overlap and work together to address them through policy and planning,” Castillo recently worked as a national director at the National Foster Institute, where she worked on local, state and federal child welfare policies. She also helped empower foster youth by helping them understand how policy is created. “I would bring foster youth from across the country to Washington D.C. to meet with their Congress members,” Castillo said. “They would shadow them to learn about how Congress works, and they would then tell their own personal stories about what their experiences were like in the foster care system … They would also make recommendations for how they can address those challenges through policy.” Currently, Castillo teaches both of Price’s undergraduate social innovation and graduate social context courses at Price. In both classes, Castillo allows students to work together to solve challenges through social innovations and hands-on activities. “I know that there’s so much for [students] to contribute to the class, so if you would like to lead a session in the class, I want you to take the lead on that,” Castillo said. “I absolutely love when students take that opportunity to lead, and I think it helps them feel empowered that you have something to bring and something to offer, and your peers can learn from you as well.”This story is part of a mini-series highlighting Latinos at USC. It ran every week during Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended Oct. 15.
The GTM employees who were awarded for their outstanding contributions and achievements…as company records $1.93B profit in 2018The recent implementation of the Insurance Act 2016 is causing major setbacks for local insurance companies, according to the Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Life Insurance Company Limited (GTM).The Insurance Act of 2016 and its supporting Regulations of 2018 took effect mid-last year.At the company’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, Chairman Ram L Singh spoke of the factors that have influenced the performance and operation of the company.“The myriad of new requirements have had and will continue to have significant and profound implications for your company financially and operationally well into the future,” he told stakeholders at the Georgetown Club.The Chairman pointed to Note No. 48 of the Insurance Act, which sets a limit on investments for statutory fund requirements. “Though the Insurance Act gives an implementation of five years from the date of the Act came into force, the implication for all companies carrying on long-term business in nonetheless far-reaching,” he noted.Singh explained that a key investment requirement for any insurance company, especially life insurance companies, was viable, secure long-term investments. GTM currently has substantial investments in shares of large entities such as Banks DIH Limited; Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL); Republic Bank Guyana Limited and Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).The Chairman noted that some of the equity in these companies was pledged towards the statutory funds.“The new regulations seek to limit the equity pledged to a paltry 20 per cent of the statutory fund. If your company is to comply, it will need to dispose of millions of shares in companies that are considered in the investment world as ‘blue chip’ or reliable high- quality investments. With the unavailability of alternative sources of viable secure long-term investments, liquidating these shares means your company would now have billions of dollars in deposits earning far lower rates of return,” he told shareholders.Singh went on to outline that beyond the issue of excess liquidity and unnecessary exposure to low-yielding returns, the sudden disposal of large amount of shares in a company would inevitably have negative repercussions for the company’s share price and value. Moreover, three or four insurance companies disposing of their shares in these large companies would, according to the Chairman, not only be devastating but catastrophic for those companies.In fact, he disclosed that the 24 per cent appreciation in value of GTM from $10.31 billion to $12.78 billion at the end of December 2018 was a direct result of increased share prices from these investments. This, he added, contributed to the company’s “favourable performance” as reflected in its accounts.Financial positionTurning his attention to the company’s financial position, Singh revealed that GTM’s total income for 2018 was pegged at $1.93 billion, which is $124 million more than the previous year. At the end of December 2018, the company’s asset base increased by $2.47 billion. This 23.97 per cent growth over 2017’s figure is as a result of the increase in value of non-current assets and improved share values of the local companies in which GTM invested.Further, the company’s insurance premiums written, unlike 2017, recorded a growth of $133.76 million or 7.74 per cent in 2018. After the payment of reinsurance, GTM’s net premium growth was $121.67 million over 2017.Meanwhile, of the company’s 1.86 billion insurance premiums written last year, Guyana continues to be the top contributor with $899 million or 48 per cent, followed by St Lucia with $589 million or 32 per cent and Grenada with $281 million or 15 per cent.According to the Chairman, GTM settled some $568 million in insurance claims during 2018 compared to $461 million paid out in 2017.“The increase is a direct result of claims association with routine health, car, surgeries and treatment of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, renal failure and heart-related illness. As opposed to being a cause for alarm at this stage, an increase in the use of health-care services is seen as the growing awareness of the importance of preventative health care which provides an opportunity to expand your company’s health insurance portfolio,” he told the shareholders.On the other hand, Singh explained that concerted efforts were made to aggressively manage expenditures and as such, a decline in management expenses was recorded. Notwithstanding this, however, he noted that the new Insurance Act and its attendant Regulations required the introduction of additional positions at senior levels.“Steep increases in insurance levies to fund operation of the insurance regulator’s office and charges that are not imposed by other regulators in other territories in which your company operates, run counter to the regulator’s call for cost efficiency. Nonetheless, the Board of Directors working in collaboration with management have taken steps to comply and have already established a fully functional Compliance Department and identified persons for the positions of Risk Officer and Client Ombudsman,” he added.As customary at its Annual General Meetings, GTM also recognised its staff for their contributions and achievements over the past year.GTM Chairman Ram L Singh