In Hampton, a community organization focuses on preparing the Latino community for the job market.
La Luz Centro Cultural has a legal department, education classes, a pantry, translators and interpreters, as well as the SOMOS Latinx project and the Gran Festival North Iowa. All of these programs aim to “promote cultural awareness and diversity with welcoming and supportive services for all,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
“Many immigrants do not go beyond primary school (in their country of origin). And so they come up here not knowing what’s going on, not knowing how to do things. And then their children don’t know what to do or how to do things either. And so they’re trying to raise their kids and don’t know how the United States works and don’t know how the school system works or anything like that,” said Kyle Whalen, associate director of La Luz.
Whalen said the community center works to help immigrants who don’t speak English become literate, as well as offering citizenship, group therapy and counseling services and connecting with others. programs to help offset the cost of living.
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“We’re just making sure the community knows we’re here to support anyone who needs help.”
In the past, La Luz has worked to prepare community members for the workforce, but has not worked to directly connect workers to available jobs. In December 2021, a grant including 50 Google Career Certificates gave the organization the opportunity to provide work to the Latinx community.
The self-paced online training program prepares participants for careers in the high-growth fields of project management, user experience design, data analysis, and IT support. With less than 10 hours of study per week, it takes about six months to earn a Google Career Certificate. This program connects graduates with more than 130 top US employers.
Whalen has high hopes for the program in Hampton and expects to branch out into other communities.
“The more (people) we can invite, the more we can complete, the more scholarships we can get,” Whalen said.
Future scholarships are based on completion rate, so it is necessary for participants to keep track. La Luz plans to offer the scholarship locally first, with no scholarship requirements other than how long it takes to complete. If someone starts the course but cannot complete it, they simply have to drop the course and the certificate will remain valid for the next user.
Applications are open for Google Career Certificates at https://www.laluzcc.org/. La Luz provides computer access to community members without Wi-Fi or a personal computer. Currently, there are 12 computers in their lobby, but Whalen said La Luz is working with other organizations to increase their stock. The computers are used for a number of programs, and ESL participants like Iveth and Jorge, who have requested that only their first names be used, use the computers regularly.
After purchasing a new building in 2019, La Luz has continuously undergone renovations to make their new building a welcoming space for the people they serve.
La Luz is also expanding its workforce to accommodate the expansion of programs they have undertaken. A Programs and Public Relations Coordinator is needed to support new programs, maintain existing programs, and help launch potential programs in the near future.
The center runs programs for children, including a mentoring and tutoring service and a literacy program for infants up to 5 years old. La Luz is also looking to expand its ESL classes, which take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Plans are underway to add classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for beginners.
“We do everything we can to make sure Latinos are served here,” Whalen said.
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Gretchen Burnette is editor of weeklies and daily reporter for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her by phone at 641.421.0523 or [email protected]