Roméo Guerra was our speaker on November 30. We heard about the history, changes and impact of the services available through El Centro de las Américas.
Romeo provided some statistics that show that the number of Latinos in Lincoln is increasing. But, it is not because of new immigrants it is because 77% of the Latinos living here are of the age to have children. There is some reduction due to the immigration trends, but overall the population, and therefore the need for services, is on the rise. In Lancaster County in 2015., 6.7% of the population was Latino; in total in the (including the surrounding counties) there were about 35,000 total Latinos.
He reviewed that most of us have an image of Hispanics as all being immigrants, all foreigners, that they are a social and economic burden and that they do not do much to assimilate to life here. In reality there are few new foreign / immigrant Hispanics, instead the growth in the population is due to new births. Then there are those that are not citizens - but they pay taxes and contribute to the social security system - even though they will never be able to collect those funds. There are about 11 million unauthorized Latinos in the U.S. today.
El Centro de las Américas, originally known as the Hispanic Community Center (HCC), was founded in 1982 and became a non-profit 501(c)(3) in 1983.
They provide services in the areas of education, family support, strengthening of youth, health, domestic violence, and general support for clients. There are two program divisions:
About 90% of their clients are monolingual and 80% are low income.
El Centro de las Américas provides a number of services.
Family Support Services Division
I. Crisis Assistance & Prevention Program - assisting clients by connecting them with community resources for immediate needs (food, clothing, utility and rent assistance); they also assist clients apply for programs such as Medicaid and SNAP; they also help with resumes. They strive to help clients become self-sufficient.
II. Health Education & Outreach - assist clients with medical needs and try to help them establish medical relationships rather than moving around; they are able to provide some free health screenings
III. Domestic Violence - helping victims find resources is vital in this area
Educational Services Division
IV. Joven Noble Program is a group session for youth within the juvenile justice system and at-risk youth; they provide a meal and have a sports activity to teach positive social activities
V. Adult Education provides GED classes in Spanish; there is also assistance for citizenship tutoring
Roméo currently serves as the Executive Director for El Centro de las Américas and manages all the program coordinators directly. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science as well as a Master’s degree in Adult and Continuing Education with a specialization in Gerontology both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

He has held a number of progressively responsible positions in the health and human service field. This includes extensive experience at the local, state, and national level. He worked for over ten years in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, with a focus on minority health. Other positions he has held include Director, UNMC College of Public Health, Survey Research Center, Director of Academic Conferences at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Program Officer for the Nebraska Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Most recently Roméo worked for the University of Nebraska Medical Center in grant research and development.

Roméo’s professional interests focus on health disparities and equity. He is particularly interested in the elimination of public health disparities and improving health outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities through the acquisition, dissemination, and utilization of quality health data. His areas of concentration include system change, socioeconomic determinants, cultural competence, client empowerment, health care access and utilization, and promotion of healthy lifestyle intervention strategies. Roméo is a seasoned professional who has demonstrated leadership and advocacy for the Latino community throughout his career in public service.