I had heard about the great work Centro does in the community, but I had no idea what to expect from the space itself when I went to visit Nina Geham, Centro’s Director of Development and Communications. Let me tell you, I was absolutely floored! First of all, it’s HUGE! They have recently renovated the entire space, and it is functional, accessible, and beautiful. Nina took me through the space and explained how each corner was being utilized to its fullest extent — there truly is something in this space to suit any need.
What amazed me the most though, was the energy. You can feel how positive, powerful, and passionate everyone at Centro is just by being there. There is a drive behind everyone to support and empower the community, which leads to the incredible services and programming they provide. I spoke with Nina to learn about these — read below to find out yourself!
What is the history of Centro?
Centro Hispano of Dane County (Centro), located at 810 West Badger Rd, was founded over 30 years ago by a group of community volunteers to meet the emergent needs of Cuban refugees recently settled in Madison, WI. As the Latino community in Dane County grew and diversified over the years, so did Centro – the agency is now the largest social service provider for Latinos in the county and serves 5,000+ individuals with quality programs and services each year.
What kinds of disparities or issues does Centro work on?
The current national climate targeting immigrants and refugees is completely unacceptable. Families belong together, growing and thriving, no matter their background or immigration status. Opting to leave your home country, and to leave everything behind, is no easy decision. It is often the only one left to escape violence and turmoil. The chance to seek refuge, where a family can thrive and contribute to America is not a crime – it is the foundation of this country and of the American Dream.
Our immigration system is broken. A system that favors some over others is unjust, and manipulating families as a means of discouraging immigration is immoral. Let it be clear that Centro Hispano of Dane County (Centro) stands in opposition to current immigration policies that affect the most vulnerable members of our community. These policies are based on political power plays and offer no humane solution to immigration reform – they are exclusionary, tear apart families, leave our DREAMers in limbo, and scar and traumatize generations to come.
What kinds of programs does Centro run?
Centro’s philosophy is that we need to invest in our children and youth but that strong youth, do not exist without strong and stable families, and a nurturing community. Our mission is therefore Empowering Youth, Strengthening Families, Engaging the Community.
Youth programs for middle and high school students embedded within Madison’s public schools, caseworker support on issues ranging from immigration to healthcare, to navigating the criminal justice system for Latino families, wellness and community activities ranging from Zumba classes, to a weekly Farmer’s market, and postpartum support group.
For a complete list of programs please click here.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Honestly, everything is rewarding about this work because we are making an impact on the lives of people who need our support, especially at this difficult time.
How can people get involved?
Get informed! Get educated!
a. Engage with Centro – follow us and sign up for our quarterly newsletter and alerts
b. Buy a limited edition Centro Action 2018 T-shirt and wear it to show your support for our community. Contact Nina Gehan, Nina@micentro.org, if interested.
Give locally — invest in efforts committed to a thriving, vibrant, Latino community in Dane County!
a. Find out the many ways you can support Latino youth and families in Dane County, WI. http://www.micentro.org/give.html
b. Give to our youth, who are fighting to thrive, dream and aspire a chance at education! Especially our DREAMers who are faced with paying out-of-state tuition in a place they grew up in by making a gift to the BECA Scholarship Fund http://www.micentro.org/centro-beca-program.html