INDIANAPOLIS – The largest and oldest Latino nonprofit celebrates 50 years of service to the Latino community in Indianapolis.
“When I moved here 35 years ago, there were less than 9,000 Latinos [in central Indiana]Said Miriam Acevedo Davis, President and CEO of La Plaza. “At 13% [today], we certainly have a much larger footprint.
Davis said La Plaza started out as “El Centro Hispano Americano” and was started by the Mexican-American community to help migrants. Today, La Plaza offers educational programs, social services, and workforce development efforts.
With regard to young Latinos, La Plaza offers services to fight against dropping out of school and the academic success of young Hoosiers. Each year, the non-profit organization awards up to six college scholarships of $ 2,000 over four years to deserving Latino students from across Indiana. Students are selected based on their academic record, community involvement and financial needs.
“I just remember being a kid in elementary school and having to explain what it was really like to be undocumented,” said Aldo Rosales, recipient of the La Plaza scholarship. “Being around a lot of Hispanic students wasn’t really that common, unless you were taking an ESL class or something like that.”
Rosales, 24, said she found this sense of unity and understanding within La Plaza.
âIt’s a great feeling to know that you’re not the only one going through these kinds of challenges,â Rosales said. “This feeling is really gratifying.”
Rosales said he first discovered La Plaza when his mother signed him up for summer camp in sixth grade. Since then, Rosales has said he has benefited from La Plaza’s food program, DACA news and various services.
âMainly the LILY program and I was involved in this program from grade 6 from the time I graduated from high school,â Rosales said.
The Leadership Institute for Latino Youth (LILY) is a free, five-week summer program designed to help students in Grades 9-12 develop the skills needed not only to graduate from high school, but also to be successful in college, in their careers and in life.
Rosales said the LILY program provided her with career advice, assistance with scholarship applications, and even college visits.
âMy parents were still working – and they didn’t have the knowledge of how the university works in the United States either – they left La Plaza to really take on that role for me,â Rosales said.
As an undocumented student in search of a better education, Rosales said La Plaza has made that dream come true. He is now preparing for his master’s degree.
âIt means the world to us. That’s why we’re here, âDavis said. âWe have seen the community grow exponentially over the past 50 years, as well as the programs and services provided by La Plaza. “
La Plaza also offers services to adult men and women – preparing families for success in the workforce and in the community.
âYo quiero estudiar para cortadora de baeza,â said Olimpia Rivero, member of La Plaza.
La Plaza helps Rivero learn English, but in the meantime, a translator explains that she is pursuing a beauty school certification paid for by the association.
âMi sueÃ±o es aprender algo, un oficio,â said Rivero, mentioning that his dream is to learn a trade or a trade.
“She really wants to show women that it is possible and that they can also have these same opportunities,” said the translator from Rivero.
As a single mother of seven, having previously held two jobs, Rivero said she even used La Plaza’s food distribution programs and rental assistance.
“Aqui en La Plaza nos espera con los abrazos abiertos y yo soy un ejemplo de ellos,” said Rivero adding that “La Plaza awaits with open arms and is an example of what success can look like.”
â50 great years, but wow let’s make the next 50 even better,â Davis said.
La Plaza officials are now looking to expand with the addition of a new program, The Latino Opportunity Center. It has been in the works for several years and will focus specifically on workforce development – helping unemployed families who are affected by poverty to obtain more sustainable employment.
Davis said the nonprofit is still looking for additional space to house the Latino Opportunity Center and hopes to launch the program by the end of fall.
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