As the current executive director, I understand that our community's voices, cultural strengths, values, and experiences are crucial to our mission and vision. As a first-generation Latina individual who migrated from Mexico and grew up in the United States, I have firsthand experience with the struggles of accessing resources and navigating complex systems. My lived experiences inform how I approach my community work, and I firmly believe in Glenn Martin's words that "people who are closest to the problem are closest to the solution." Everything we do is informed by working with and listening to our community. We engage with them, invite them to our programming, sit with them, listen to what they have to say, and pay attention to their needs and reported trends, focusing on equity. This helps us create programming that fulfills their needs and think about recommendations that can begin to change systems. We provide immediate support through our programming as we strengthen their education and self-advocacy, help them continue learning on their own, and take their mental health on their terms. As a social entrepreneur that believes in strengthening our community's self-advocacy regarding systems change, I am always ensuring that our work doesn't stop at our organization and that we can continue serving, inspiring, and facilitating more processes so that other partners can continue helping more people than the ones we serve. We recognize that we can't do this alone and that working together is one way to change systems for everyone. Our communities have so much to offer, and reject the deficit mindset. Instead, we focus on our cultural strengths and work with our communities to awaken the leaders within them, empower their voices, and use their experiences as the power to advocate for happier and healthier lives, not only for themselves but for others. We cannot exist without them, and our ultimate goal is to help them achieve their dreams and empower their voices
Administrative Manager & Data Analyst
I am from Colombia, and I have been living in the USA for 5 years. I got to know Centro Unido Latino Americano through a youth program called Active Life. My sisters, nephews, my son, and I became interested in the program and that's how I got involved with CULA. I want to make sure that our community is well represented and one way to do that is by doing the statistics of the programs that we offer to see what the needs are in our community and see what we can do to help them.
I am originally from Los Angeles California, daughter of immigrants. I was raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico and returned to the United States in 2007. I am a mother of two boys, and in my free time I enjoy spending time with them, going to the movies and shopping and supporting all their activities in school and sports. I started working at Centro Unido Latino-Americano in 2022 and during this time I have had the opportunity to grow professionally and to serve our Hispanic community by breaking those barriers they face every day.
I am originally from Spain and moved to the beautiful mountains of WNC about 4 years ago. One of my favorite things to do here is to spend time outdoors and explore new trails with my husband and our german shepard mix Niko. It wasn’t until 2021 that I started my journey as a Community Health Worker at Centro Unido Latino Americano. My job is to make sure the community we serve receives culturally appropriate education on chronic disease prevention, mental and physical health, and that they have equitable access to the resources they need to thrive in their lives.
Hola! Hello! I was born in Zacatecas Mexico but raised in Marion, NC my whole life until I left for college. I was fortunate enough to grow up speaking both English and Spanish. After I graduated from Lees-McRae College with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing I had planned to move to Asheville and work as a nurse in Mission Hospital, but God had different plans. I returned home to McDowell and Centro Unido crossed my path and it has been a path well crossed. Centro Unido continues to not only impact the community but help to build my character for a better tomorrow.
Helping Hands Coordinator
My name is Lorena Lopez-Cervantes and I am a proud native of Mexico but my heart belongs to the community I serve in McDowell. I had the privilege of getting to know CULA when I began volunteer work in June 2016.
I believe all people should have access to nutrition and healthy foods. This belief has led me to become the coordinator of the Helping Hands Program where we distribute food every other week as well as provide necessary clothing and hygienic products. Please see me if you need any assistance with food or personal necessities!
Community Outreach Coordinator
I originate from Costa Rica and have been involved with the community in McDowell for more than ten years. I was involved since 2009 when CULA was founded, and during those times I was just about everywhere but now I coordinate community outreach for services and events.
Since then I have seen the organization grow into what it is now and I am beyond delighted to still be a part of this growing team, I am here for my community!
Hi! I am from Guatemala. I have been living in the USA since 1988. I lived 2 years in L.A. California, 10 years in Washington, DC and the rest in Marion, NC. I have 4 wonderful children Bonnie, Gabriela, Alicia and Alvaro J.
I worked as a teacher for more than 30 years. I love to read, to crochet and take walks in nature.
Recently, I started working at Centro Unido Latino Americano as an Equity Coordinator and I am so excited to serve a wonderful, hard working community.
I am Melissa Flores, mother of two, a native of Honduras, and I am thrilled to be a part of CULA! Honduras is where I received my Bachelor's in Education where I also taught both children and adults alike for sixteen years before moving to Marion. As the Workforce Coordinator my goal is to place community members in dignifying jobs and to provide educational opportunities for labor skills that helps our community excel for their future. I invite you to visit our office and find out how we can help you achieve your goals.
Coordinator for Youth Engagement
I have the desire to serve without expecting anything in return. Living in McDowell County for more than fifteen years has allowed me to see the greatest rewards when it comes to serving your community. My Mexican origins give me a different culture that I can share with others and provide a unique perspective on the world. As the oldest of three, and finding myself in leadership positions throughout my life, I came to embrace not only my culture more but also my aspiration to be a role model for youth.
Joining the team at Centro Unido allowed me to advocate for the youth in the community; preparing them for their future with a healed, liberated, and fortified mentality. Our focus should be to build the next generation for a better future, not the other way around.
I have been with Centro Unido since its inception in 2010. But I have always been on the board of directors. It gives me great pleasure to be a member of the team, finally! Now I can be more involved with the community directly. I am originally from Puerto Rico, my father being Puerto Rican and my mother being American. I came to the United States when I was 18 to go to college. Since I came to Marion in 1990, I have always worked with the Hispanic community, as a teacher and as an interpreter. This community has always held a special place in my heart and it gives me such pleasure to be able to serve it.
Farmworker Relief Program Assistant
I was born on September 24, 1982 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; I was raised in a family with high ethical and moral values, with a love for justice and a fervent desire to be a better human being every day. I was trained as a teacher in Social Sciences at the National Pedagogical University Francisco Morazán, at the same time I formed my family and struggled day by day with the problems that come with living in a city like Tegucigalpa. I migrated in 2017 along with my wife and daughter looking for better opportunities; likewise, I was growing even more as a person and professional as I came into contact with a new world. Currently, working with CULA, I have discovered that I can still give more as a member of this community that has welcomed me as one of their children, and this is why, it remains among my goals to be an agent of change and a being that can serve others and create a better social environment.
Marketing & Comms. Specialist
Hello! I was born in Minneapolis in 1999 from Mexican parents who were seeking a better future. I started working at Centro Unido in May of 2023 as I was going through a transitional period in my life. I graduated from the College of St.Scholastica in May of 2022 with a Marketing & Communications degree and wanted to use my skills towards helping people. My goal is to create positive change for our community and hope to provide my parents with the better future they came here searching for. As my dad always says, “A darle, que la vida es buena.”