FLINT, MI – A blessing and an honor.
This is how Asa Zuccaro, managing director of the Latinx Technology and Community Center, 2101 Lewis St., in Flint, describes his time so far, during which he is leading the center this week into the celebrations for its 20th anniversary and looking to the future.
“It’s one thing to celebrate the organization’s anniversary, but it feels so much more than just celebrating 20 years of fellowship and how it has grown and changed and evolved over the years,” said Zuccaro.
“It’s an exciting time as the organization continues to grow and build, and it’s a great thing to be able to support and celebrate 20 years of fellowship,” said Zuccaro. “Much of the support would not have been possible without the Mott Community College.”
In 2001, Mott Community College realized that there was a huge gap in access to technology and internet on the east side of the city and the Latin American community.
To meet this need, Mott Community College partnered with what was then the American GI Forum, a Latin American veterans’ organization.
As a result of the partnership, the Latinx technology center was established, which shortly thereafter changed its name from the American GI Forum to the Hispanic Technology and Community Center.
The center offers many services and educational programs such as tutoring, English as a Second Language (ESL) lessons, and interpreting services.
“The service support has grown, the work we do has grown and it is a blessing to grow with the organization and offer great programs and services that celebrate the community and culture,” said Zuccaro. “I was blessed and happy and I happened to be there at the right time.”
Zuccaro came to the center about five years ago when he and his wife came to the facility to seek translation and interpreting services while the couple was going through part of the immigration process.
The couple also wanted to find a way to volunteer for the organization.
He said they had a particular vision for the community and wanted to give their support to see a prosperous and vibrant cultural community.
At the time, the organization was under the direction of Sixto Olivo, a founding member of the center.
Olivo reached out to Zuccaro a few months later to inform him that the organization had a paid position to fill immediately, and Zuccaro immediately applied for the position.
The board later announced to Zuccaro that he would be perfectly suited to take on the role of Executive Director.
Zuccaro’s first day at work was March 1, 2018.
As he stepped into his new role, the Planning Committee informed him of his first assignment, planning the Cesar Chavez Life and Legacy Luncheon, which the organization hosts each year.
Zuccaro described the assignment as a lovely experience and remembered the feeling he had with his new position and the importance of carrying Chavez’s legacy. He said there was just a great connection between Chavez and the local community.
“It was really exciting to take on this role,” said Zuccaro. He added that it was a wonderful time serving the community he grew up in and part of.
Since taking over the center, Zuccaro has worked to expand the organization’s programs and services to further support local narrative, diversity, and inclusion, and to offer them more perspective.
The centre’s recent accomplishments include awarding Earth Day water to the community to gain access to clean water With 100,000 Ideas – a nonprofit in Flint that offers college students hands-on experience – expand their office hours location on the establishment.
“As we grow, we really hope to be able to expand the capacity of our building, to have some of our partner organizations here, to have this direct reach to the east, this direct connection to the cultural community.” Zuccaro added.
Zuccaro hopes to convert some of the surrounding vacant lots into areas for “health, recreation and public relations” for the time being.
He said he would like to build a playground for children in the neighborhood so they can use it with youth programs to maybe “record a soccer game.”
The center will continue to use its resources to host future events celebrating culture and community, while Zuccaro hopes to build a space that not only looks good on the outside but also provides safety for the community.
As for the celebrations on Saturday, Zuccaro expects people to reconnect with each other, with their neighbors and friends.
The celebrations will officially begin at noon – after a press conference at which Zuccaro thanks Mott Community College for their continued support – with a musical performance by Beatrice.
Family-friendly activities, attractions such as bouncy castles for kids, and food dedicated to Latin American culture are offered throughout the day.
The Flint Repertory Theater will also be present on wall tours, including one in the back building, one across from the tech center, and through the adjacent neighborhoods.
A variety of culturally relevant foods, Zuccaro said, such as fajitas, tacos, arepas, and empanadas, from places like Central and South America are served.
“We’re going to have great food that you won’t find anywhere in Genesee County,” he added. “Much of the food was donated by the Cancun Mexican Restaurant and Cantina in Fenton. You are a great supporter of our work and we are blessed that you are contributing to the event. “
Two Latin bands from Grand Rapids and Detroit will play a variety of music including salsa, cumbia, merengue and bachata throughout the day.
Grupo Latin Soul will take the stage from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., while Orquesta Trabuco y Son will conclude the party from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For those who have not yet honed their salsa dancing during the pandemic or who are not familiar with the unique dance, there is a professional salsa dancer from Cuba who will demonstrate some basic steps.
Zuccaro said the dancer, who now lives in Flint, used to dance around the world in places like Spain, Cuba and Miami.
“We’ve been really separated from people for a long time and we’ve been isolated for the last year,” he said. “It’s an exciting time to get out of this pandemic. It’s an exciting time as the organization continues to grow and build, and it’s a great thing to be able to support and celebrate 20 years of fellowship. “
The center wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions still in place, Zuccaro felt it was not the time to hold a gathering with a large crowd.
Although the state is lifting all COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week, Zuccaro wants to make sure people live healthy and safe lives even as they prepare to throw a party for the community.
Zuccaro said the Hamilton Community Health Network will be in attendance to provide vaccines to anyone who has not been vaccinated and wants to take the opportunity.
“We’re really excited about it because as we get out of COVID this week, we’re going to have a fun fiesta that people can attend,” Zuccaro said.
Although the weather forecast for Saturday predicts rain and isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon, Zuccaro said the celebrations will continue as there will be many tents covering all the attractions and meeting rooms.
“As long as the storm isn’t that bad, we’ll be outside,” said Zuccaro.
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