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For many of us, when we want to read something, we can likely skim right through it without a second thought. Countless emails, articles, books – all at our fingertips. But for some, both the ability to read and the access to resources doesn’t come so easy. Fortunately, one local community center has been working hard to strengthen, support, and change the lives of those who need a helping hand.

It’s no secret that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is committed to making a difference in our members’ lives. It’s also no secret that we aim to help improve health care for all North Carolinians. But what’s lesser known are the many organizations that we support to help our communities thrive. For its dedication to education, El Centro Hispano (The Hispanic Center) holds a special place on our list.

Building Community

Here in North Carolina, our many differences have shaped our state into the thriving economy that it is today. With each day, we are becoming more culturally diverse. In fact, diverse consumers now make up 36% of our state population. More recently, Hispanics have become key consumers as more and more make North Carolina their home. In Durham County alone, Hispanics make up 13.4% of the total population, or nearly 40,000 people.

In light of these changes, El Centro Hispano (ECH) has been a constant source of support. For 25 years, ECH has helped Hispanics build better lives. It offers nearly 40 programs and services to over 10,000 people each year at its sites in Durham and Carrboro-Chapel Hill. English literacy classes, diabetes education, and job advice are just a few of the programs that help members grow. These efforts help to merge the Hispanic community with the larger community of North Carolina.

Transforming Lives

When Pilar Rocha-Goldberg first joined ECH in 2009 as President and CEO, she was determined to help all those who walked through the doors. She was driven by the need for resources that would empower Latinos to improve their quality of life. “Our main goal is to invigorate the Hispanic community.”

El Centro Hispano has met that goal, and then some. For Israel Hernández Espíritu, who is originally from Mexico, learning to read and write at El Centro Hispano helped change his life. “I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school; from the time I was very little I had to work. El Centro Hispano has given me the opportunity to change my future.”

Jovita Leyva Espinoza, who came to ECH with an elementary school education, shares a similar journey. “I feel secure, with better self-esteem. I know that I can pursue difficult goals and reach them. I am raising three children as a single mom, and showing them that despite our age or our life circumstances we can reach our goals. I feel like a new person, I see my future differently, and I know that it is never too late to learn.”

To Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, the future and purpose of ECH is clear. “I envision El Centro in the coming years as stronger, bigger, and not only a center that serves the Latino community, but all communities. A place where we can integrate and show that we are in this together.”

Celebrating Success

On June 10th, El Centro Hispano will honor 25 years of service to the community at its Annual Gala. Food, music, dancing, and awards will unite supporters, students, volunteers, and community members. What better reason to celebrate, than the joy of making a difference?

El Centro Hispano’s commitment to caring for the community is a trait that we here at Blue Cross NC understand very well. We strongly value El Centro Hispano’s desire to give people the tools to help themselves. As Blue Cross NC strives to improve the health and well-being of our communities, we will to continue to support El Centro Hispano, and many others, in our journey forward.

Ways You Can Help – Become a Volunteer!

You can support El Centro Hispano by:

  1. Providing front desk support
  2. Helping out in ESL classes
  3. Tutoring children after school
  4. Serving as an interpreter for special events

To learn more about El Centro Hispano, visit: https://www.elcentronc.org/

Valentina Facyson

About Valentina Facyson

Valentina Facyson is a Rotational Development Associate at Blue Cross NC, who uses communications to share life experiences. Engaging with the community, connecting with diverse cultures, and exploring the life journeys of others are just a few of the passions that spark Valentina’s joy and creativity.