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Empowering Latinos in Minnesota: A Story Celebrating Service

Divya Kumaraiah, Policy Assistant to the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, spotlights Centro Campesino, a community-based service and skills provider that empowers members to help themselves.
Service - Centro Campesino

A health promoter provides blood pressure check ups to community members at a health fair organized by Centro Campesino in a local manufacturing home park. March 14, 2011. (by Centro Campesino)

Located in Owatonna, Minnesota, Centro Campesino is a grassroots organization that empowers their community members to seek and develop solutions to their problems.  The organization focuses on engaging both migrant workers and year-round residents, many who are Latino.  Centro Campesino strives to improve the lives of its members through policy reform, education, youth outreach, and advocacy, and empower residents who receive their assistance to become the future providers.

Partnerships in Health

Centro Campesino believes that collaboration with local organizations can enhance the provisions of services.  Currently, Centro Campesino is running a pilot program in partnership with Allina Hospital in Owatonna.  Centro Campesino staff serve as promotoras or “health romoters” that provide, on a one-on-one basis, basic health education and check-ups.  They conduct cholesterol and HIV tests, measure blood pressure, and check sugar levels for community members.  Twice a month, doctors from Allina Hospital visit Centro Campesino to provide free consultations to community members who need additional health care.  This partnership has created an avenue for patients in the Latino community to receive medical care that would otherwise be unavailable.  “The ultimate goal is to eventually open a full time free clinic for low income uninsured residents in southern Minnesota,” says Jesus Torres, a community organizer at Centro Campesino.

Community Outreach Through Youth Empowerment

Centro Campesino also encourages youth to serve their communities through a spring internship program.  Students are tasked with identifying problems within the Latino community and developing effective solutions.  As an organization devoted to youth involvement within the community and committed to youth education and tutoring, Centro Campesino advocates learning through empowerment.  This year the students are directing their efforts toward computer literacy.  They have found local sponsors to donate computers, motivated friends and classmates to create a curriculum, and empowered fellow students to teach community members basic computer skills.  “Many of those who signed up [for classes] are parents,” says Torres.  “It will be interesting to see how these students step-up to teach parents, some of them their own.”  Centro Campesino believes that this program will not only prepare youth to be more responsible and to become leaders in their community, but it will also help community members overcome some of the technology obstacles they are facing. 

Do you know of organizations or individuals in your community that are rising to this challenge?  Share your story with us.

Divya Kumaraiah is the Policy Assistant to the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation