In an uneasy political climate, one North Carolina organization is attempting to create an environment of unity between the Latino population and the greater community — and one Campbell graduate is doing his best to turn that vision into reality.
Eliazar Posada (’15) currently works as the community engagement and advocacy manager for El Centro Hispano, North Carolina’s leading Latino advocacy organization. Posada, a political science pre-law graduate, became a member of El Centro Hispano while still a student at Campbell, striving to find his place as both a part of the LGBTQ community and the Latino community. Today, Posada is director of the Community Engagement & Advocacy program, which houses LGBTQ support services, youth programs, legal immigration services, community outreach programs, policy tracking and advocacy efforts.
“El Centro Hispano is a nonprofit that works to strengthen community, build bridges and advocate for inclusion of the Hispanic [and] Latino community in the Triangle area,” Posada says. The center’s work is focused around four pillars: Economic development, health and wellbeing, education and community engagement and advocacy.
Founded in 1992, El Centro Hispano has become the largest Latino nonprofit in North Carolina over the last 26 years. The center serves 12,000 Latinos across both Durham and Orange counties and has recently opened a second location in the Carrboro-Chapel Hill area.
“We are recognized in our community for the work we do in our center for employment and leadership housed in our economic development program to secure well paying jobs for our community members,” Posada says. “We have been recognized for our mobile health unit, which serves thousands of people in rural and disconnected areas of North and South Carolina with basic health care screenings, exams and vaccines.”
The work hasn’t always been smooth sailing, Posada knows all too well. Most of the people they serve are undocumented immigrants and low-income and marginalized communities, he says, adding that their attempts to help these families begin a new life has brought opposition from others in the community. In Posado’s three years with the organization, the center has faced more than 20 encounters with people seeking to end their work. “We have had at least three instances of vandalism to our facilities,” he says, along with efforts from state officials to defund the center. However, El Centro Hispano isn’t going anywhere. “We have had to make some tough decisions and restructure our organization, but we stand strong,” Posada says.
Posada reflects on his time with the center — his journey from a timid teenager to one of the head managers, and he hopes the center will impact others in the same way. “El Centro Hispano is for many what is was to me, a safe place to find much needed help,” he says. “If you are a young person trying to navigate your identity and just need a safe space to be who you are, we can help. If you are trying to become a citizen, register to vote, learn about the school system or learn English, we can help. We cannot guarantee we will solve every issue, but we will guarantee that we will do our best to help you.”
Posada says his experience at Campbell prepared him for this next step. “I see Leading With Purpose as the embodiment of being the change you want to see,” he says. “For me, my purpose is to help foster leadership and strength in my community, and I strive to be a leader who does just that. I want to see my community educated, engaged, and above all, strong. That is what I work for every day.”