Tag Archives: Centro Latino

Mission,Passion, & Joy

August 18, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Roger Garcia has a lot of work to do—relationships to build, programs to create, grants to obtain, and people to help.

Yet the 29-year-old dismisses the notion that his role is “work.” He prefers words like mission, passion, and joy; all of which compelled Garcia on his daily commute to Lincoln’s outreach center for Hispanic and Latin Americans.

Garcia served as director of Lincoln’s El Centro de las Americas from 2012 until recently, when he accepted a similar role as the executive director of Centro Latino of Council Bluffs. Although Garcia is happy to “work” closer to his wife, Yanira, and their south Omaha home, his drive to help the community still borders on obsessive.

In each person that Garcia helps, he sees the struggle that his mother, Margarita, endured decades ago.

Initially an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, Margarita gained a path to citizenship through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Roger’s father, a documented Mexican immigrant, was psychologically abusive and controlling. By 1994, Margarita had enough of him and Los Angeles. She took her youngest of three sons and left for the third and final time.

She grabbed 8-year-old Roger and packed up the few things she owned. Somehow, she coaxed a beat-up old Buick nearly 1,500 miles eastward into Nebraska. She eventually landed in Columbus for a job with the meatpacking industry. Holding only one job satisfied neither her work ethic nor demands on her pocketbook. She took up welding, baking, even cosmetology—whatever it took. Today, her knees are shot, but she owns and manages three rental properties between Omaha and Columbus.

Roger-Garcia-2“She loves this country, and she worked her butt off,” says Garcia, who remembers his mother going to work at 4 a.m. so she could get him to school every morning during her break. “People like my mom just want to work hard and provide for their family.”

The people who come through Garcia’s door are reminiscent of his mother. They are looking for the same things. They want a better life for their children. They don’t readily ask for handouts, he says.

Garcia’s commitment to the region’s Latino community runs deeper than esteem and pride for his mother’s accomplishments. He grew up in rural Nebraska. He feels compelled to help those enduring similar experiences.

He encountered racism in childhood. Once, a pair of white adults accosted Garcia and his fourth-grade classmate with racial slurs. The adults kicked the kids off their bicycles. Such experiences motivated a short-lived denunciation of his heritage in the fifth grade. “I said, ‘No, I’m not Mexican. I’m not Honduran,’” says Garcia, clearly pained by the memory. “I didn’t want to be discriminated against.”

Thanks to music, Garcia eventually found solace and comfort in his own skin. “Through American rock music, I learned that it doesn’t matter how you look,” he says.

His sense of ethnic identity became more complex while pursuing dual degrees in psychology and Latino/Latin American studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The occasional volunteer worker at the Omaha Boys and Girls Club found his calling. By the time he finished his undergraduate studies, he had earned UNO’s vice chancellor award for student leadership.

He moved on to Bellevue University to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, and became more immersed in Omaha’s Latino community. He met with elected officials, served as a community liaison for then-Mayor Jim Suttle, and met with other college campus groups and leaders.

He joined El Centro de las Americas in Lincoln as the center’s director and quickly elevated it to new heights. Beatty Brasch, the executive director of Lincoln’s Center for People in Need and a board member of El Centro, laments Garcia’s recent departure.

“He did a remarkable job. He brought the community together and developed programs there for a lot of people,” she says. “We’re sorry he’s leaving. I wish he stayed.”

His list of accomplishments garnered a new accolade in 2015 when he was listed as one of the Jaycees’ Ten Outstanding Young Omahans in the 83rd annual TOYO! awards.

That’s what happens when a passion becomes “a calling on a spiritual level.”

As Garcia and his future wife, Yanira, built their relationship, they also forged a deeper connection to their Christian faith.

“On our first date he asked me if I would ever date anybody who wasn’t a believer,” she says. “I said, ‘No.’”

Two years later, in 2015, they were married, and Roger is now pursuing a doctorate in theology with an eye toward possibly launching his own ministry.

Until then, there is indeed a lot to be done, but none of it should be confused with toil.

“It’s what we should all be doing as believers,” he says. “It’s not an obligation. It’s a joy. It’s a joy to spread His love.”

Visit sucentrolatino.com for more information.

TOYO! 2016

April 5, 2016 by
Photography by Contributed

Outstanding is a word that is used often to describe an ideal situation or person. The Omaha Jaycees uses it to describe the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (“TOYO!”), individuals between the ages of 21 and 40 who have exemplified the ideals of their communities and exhibited extraordinary leadership qualities.

Visit omahajaycees.org to learn more.

01Heidi-MausbachHeidi Mausbach

President and CEO, Ervin & Smith Advertising
and Public Relations

Mausbach has won such awards as Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, the Silver Beacon International Award for excellence in financial services advertising, ADDY Awards from the Nebraska Advertising Federation, and several awards from the Public Relations Society of America’s Paper Anvil Merit and Excellence Awards. Passionate about helping women and children, she has served such non-profit organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Go Red for Women, Habitat for Humanity, YWCA, and ICAN. She’s developed new programs at Ervin & Smith to keep women in the workplace and transition them into leadership roles and is a mentor for several organizations that are committed to the advancement of women.

02David-ArnoldDavid Arnold

Managing Director, Straight Shot

Arnold serves on the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Board of Directors, the Omaha Public School’s Career Education Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for The Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic at the University of Nebraska College of Law, as well as the Metcalfe Park Neighborhood Association. In 2012, after serving as deputy communication director for the Omaha Mayor’s Office, Arnold joined MindMixer–a civic tech startup founded by two Omahans. As account manager, he helped create and lead the company’s Client Services division. He saw Straight Shot, a business accelerator, as an opportunity to combine community building and new venture creation, becoming Managing Director in 2013.

03Shonna-DorseyShonna Dorsey

Co-Founder, Interface: The Web School

Dorsey is currently involved in Web Developer Training at Do Space, Flywheel, the Omaha Public Library, and various other venues, as well as managing website development for Nelson Mandela Elementary. She also coordinates the website and web application development for local nonprofits and small businesses via students of Interface: The Web School. Interface helps people build skills for the web, supplying startups, small businesses, and corporations in the Midwest with technology talent. In addition to her TOYO! award, she has also been recognized by the Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 (2014) and as an AIM Tech Community Builder of the Year (2015).

04Mosah-GoodmanMosah Goodman

Corporate Attorney and Business Development Parter, Gavilon

Goodman serves on the board of directors for the Child Saving Institute, is a co-founder of 24 Hours of Impact, served on the metro area board for TeamMates, and is a graduate of Leadership Omaha. Upon graduating with a J.D./MBA from the University of Iowa, Goodman accepted an offer to join Gavilon, where he currently serves as counsel. He has managed the construction of the company’s downtown headquarters, supported various business development efforts, and has worked on a variety of legal and compliance issues. Goodman is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a former nationally ranked chess player.

05Roger-GarciaRoger Garcia

Student, Theology

While at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Garcia became involved in various leadership opportunities, earning him the Senior Vice Chancellor’s Leadership Award and the Student Leader of the Year Award. He has also been involved in the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Family Violence Council, the YWCA, and Justice for Our Neighbors—Nebraska. Garcia has been working in the nonprofit and public sector for more than 10 years and is now serving as the executive director of Centro Latino of Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also has served within public office as a member of the Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors since 2013.

06AndresTorresAndres Torres

Engineering Project Manager, Valmont Industries

Torres is actively involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers and has held different roles, including President of the Nebraska Section and co-chair of the Younger Members Group. Since 2013, he has also served as Council Member for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals and is one of the founders of the Valmont Professional Network. Torres received the Greater Omaha 40 under 40 Award in 2012 and ASCE’s Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement in 2014. As an engineer, he designs tubular steel structures that are used to support transmission lines, highway lighting, and traffic lights for customers in more than 25 countries around the globe.

07Julie-Sebastian-(1)Julie Sebastian

President and CEO of New Cassel Retirement Center

Aside from New Cassel Retirement Center, Nebraska’s largest assisted-living community and a nonprofit provider of services for the aging person, Sebastian also founded the Franciscan Adult Day Centre, one of few adult day service programs in Nebraska. She has volunteered with youth at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church for nine years and also serves as chair of the board at LeadingAge Nebraska, where she participates in LeadingAge’s national public policy congress. In her leisure time, Sebastian mentors young people she met through St. Andrew’s youth group, including spending a week each summer on the annual high school mission trip.

08Eric-WilliamsEric Williams

Natural Resources Planner, Papio-Missouri River NRD

In 2008, Williams founded the Omaha Biofuels Cooperative to recycle used cooking oil into local biofuels and reduce the use of fossil fuels in our community. His work with nonprofit organizations includes helping found the Dundee Community Garden, serving on the boards for the Green Omaha Coalition and Mode Shift Omaha, and serving as chair for Earth Day Omaha in 2014. Williams is president of Nebraskans for Solar for 2016 and has worked with the Office of Sustainable Development at the City of Omaha on climate legislation. At Papio-Missouri River NRD, Williams manages trail construction for active transportation and recreational access to natural resource areas, as well as urban stormwater management projects.

09Beth-MorrissetteBeth Morrissette

Treasurer, Westside Community Schools Board of Education (WCS BOE)

Morrissette recently left her position as executive director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Network, a collective impact that works with community partners to provide a continuum of care for individuals with mental health and substance abuse needs. In 2013, the network received the NACo (National Associations of Counties) Achievement Award for the Alternatives to Incarceration project. Today, Morrissette continues to provide consulting and strategic planning services serves as the WCS BOE representative on the Learning Community Council. Since 2013, Morrissette has served on the United Way of the Midlands Community Impact Cabinet and is a member of the Women’s Fund Circles.

10Butch-Burgers

Butch Burgers 

Associate Athletic Director, Creighton University

Mark “Butch” Burgers is involved with Special Olympics of Nebraska, the American Heart Association, the Kyle Korver Foundation, Community Health Charities, Angels Among Us, the Omaha American Cancer Society, the Knights of Aksarben, and the Jaybacker Executive Board at Creighton. Before returning to his alma mater, Burgers served as associate athletic director at South Dakota State University for two years. At Creighton, he assists with day-to-day operations and oversees the operating budget, donor relations, and various sports. Creighton became the only university nationally to have top-10 attendance in soccer, baseball, and basketball and has reached record numbers in corporate sponsorship sales, season ticket revenues, and Jaybacker support.