ABN Member Spotlight: Claudia Caballero, Executive Director of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee

Claudia Caballero, Executive Director of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, knows what it’s like to straddle two worlds and two different cultures. Claudia was born in the western mountains of Honduras and spent most of her early childhood and teens moving between Honduras and the United States. Today, she spends her time supporting the Latino community by helping them to thrive in East Tennessee and the local economy.

Centro Hispano was founded to support the growing Latino community by addressing three main areas: information and referral service in Spanish, English classes for adults, and afterschool programs for children. Specifically, their mission is to promote empowerment and civic participation of Latino families through education and social services. Centro Hispano is the only organization in Knox County that focuses on serving the Spanish-speaking community. In Claudia’s own words, their mission is to “help Latino families become good community members.” She most connects with Centro Hispano’s efforts to promote empowerment and civic participation, because she feels people must be given the tools to improve their lives themselves if there is to be sustained change. Every day, Centro Hispano works to help people face and solve their own challenges, without the need to rely on others.

Since starting her position as executive director, Claudia has focused the priorities of Centro to working with school-aged children. She believes that to create sustainable health and prosperity in the emerging Latino community, increasing opportunities for youth is a must. Centro has seen the children in their afterschool programs improve their social skills, math, and reading scores. They have become more comfortable with both their surroundings and their identity.

Claudia says she feels uniquely equipped for her position as executive director of Centro Hispano. She says, “I’ve moved around and had to make a new home for myself. I believe I’ve gotten good at it. So what better job than to help other people make a home and feel at home in their new community?”

Claudia says the most rewarding part of her job is listening to Centro Hispano’s clients speak English after only a few months of classes. “The self-confidence and security people feel when they can understand others around them, the liberty it gives them to move around social spaces more comfortably, it’s amazing,” says Claudia.

If Claudia could give one piece of advice, it would be to do it, whatever that “it” is for you. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, don’t wait for perfect. Just go ahead and do it. Claudia also loves nurturing friendships with the people she crosses paths with. “I learn so much, I cherish so many stories, I learn about so many cultures. I eat so much delicious food from all around the world! The camaraderie and the deep connections are such a gift.”

Claudia and her fellow staff have succeeded in turning Centro Hispano into a place that is a true community center; not only a place to learn, but a place to connect. If you are interested in learning more about Centro Hispano and Claudia’s work there, please attend their Open House on November 9th from 4:30-7:30pm! There will be presentations and tours every hour. You can find more information on their website at www.centrohispanotn.org