High Point group serves Latinos

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Last fall, nine juniors and seniors from High Point Central High School and Andrews High School completed their resumes and college applications with the help of eight students from a Spanish class at High Point University who worked with them over five work sessions.

Fostering the collaborative effort was the Latino Family Center of Greater High Point, a nonprofit that was formed in July 2010 from a program spun off from Catholic Social Services.

Operating with an annual budget of $118,000 and a staff of four part-time employees and a volunteer part-time executive director, the organization serves about 800 people a year.

With a staff that is entirely bi-cultural and bilingual, the center provides mentoring programs for students in middle school and high school; offers parenting courses; provides translation and interpretation services for adults and helps them get access to community services; and serves as an advocate for the Latino community.

“Helping people achieve their potential and their ability to further contribute to society is the American way,” says Evelyn Morales, a second-generation Mexican-American who serves as the agency’s volunteer, part-time executive director. “That’s what made our country great.”

Last summer, the Latino Family Center sent a group of kids to a NASA camp in Ohio.

It also works to plug Latino youth into local enrichment opportunities, and has participated in research by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on attitudes and knowledge of Latino parents about helping their children move on to higher education.

And some older Latino youth volunteered last summer at a camp that was a joint project of the Latino Family Center and Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, with some of those volunteers having attended the camp themselves as youngsters.

The center is the only local agency dedicated solely to working with Latino families in a city of 100,000 people, including 8,500 Latinos, Morales says.

Now that it is a separate nonprofit, she says, the agency is working to boost its fundraising, and has worked with consultant Michelle Speas on its fundraising strategy.

That effort will include doubling its 12-member board, getting more board members involved in designing a signature fundraising event, and raising awareness of the organization in the community, particularly among larger donors.

It also is making greater use of volunteers, and now counts on a core of 20 active volunteers.

And it is collaborating with other organizations.

Through a grant from the High Point Arts Council, the Latino Family Center and the YWCA will offer a drama program to provide diversity training to Latino children to help them better understand discrimination and bias, and how to deal with it, Morales says.

“We really want to give our kids hope,” she says, “and help them believe in themselves and not be dismayed by the lack of external validation from society.”

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