United Community Center
Press Release

Celebrating 46 Years of Service to Milwaukee’s South Side with Expansion to Welcome More Students, Provide Support for Expectant Mothers with Addiction

Anniversary Celebration will honor Friends of the Hispanic Community & Badger Mutual Wall of Fame Awardees and Commemorate Expanded Partnerships to Benefit Students

By - Apr 21st, 2016 03:28 pm

MILWAUKEE — April 21, 2016 – The United Community Center’s annual anniversary dinner is an event at which the agency takes the time to thank our supporters, acknowledge our successes, and lay out the roadmap for the future, ensuring programs will continue to benefit the community. This year, UCC will celebrate 46 years of service on Friday, April 29, with a reception beginning at 5:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:00 p.m. and a program at 7:00 p.m. The sold-out event will feature performances by the Latino Arts Strings Program and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School Jazz Band.

UCC has focused on the community’s needs since it was founded as “The Spot” in 1970, as its growing and vast programming continued to expand each decade. With the acquisition and development of Bruce-Guadalupe Community School (BGCS) beginning in the early 1990’s, UCC took on the opportunity to bolster educational opportunities for residents of Milwaukee’s south side. From the growth of BGCS to include middle school grades in 2001, to the addition of UCC’s Teen Center in 2002, to the development of the Early Childhood Education Center in 2007, through the development of the Pre-College Program and Abriendo Puertas, which pairs college students with professional mentors to aide in the development of soft skills necessary for the workforce, UCC pushed the importance of education in creating the next wave of Milwaukee’s leaders.

This fall, the doors will open to welcome the first class of students at UCC Acosta Middle School, a new technology and skilled-trades focused charter school with an environment that fosters high expectations, hard work, and strong parental involvement. This focus will empower students to continue their education at rigorous high schools and colleges and equip them with skills to be competitive in dynamic future job markets. Renovations and additions to BGCS as well as the construction and opening of UCC Acosta Middle School were made possible by the many individuals and organizations that contributed to UCC’s $8 million Building on Success capital campaign. Enrollment for UCC Acosta Middle School is open now, and details are available here: http://www.bgcsedu.org/EnrollmentInformation.htm.

UCC continues to grow to meet the needs of the community with Latinas Unidas a new program that provides support to mothers and expectant mothers wrestling with addiction and are experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health diseases. Latinas Unidas is one of just four women’s residential treatment programs in Milwaukee County, and this year, UCC is expanding the program to help more mothers will find the road to recovery and more children grow up in healthy households.

46th Anniversary Celebration & Awards

At each year’s Anniversary Celebration, the United Community Center proudly announces the recipients of the Friends of the Hispanic Community Awards, which recognize individuals that have made immeasurable contributions to the development and well-being of the community at large, and the Badger Mutual Wall of Fame, honoring outstanding achievements of the community’s youth by selecting five exceptional students in collaboration with Badger Mutual Insurance Company. Honorees will be celebrated at UCC’s 46th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, April 29th in Bruce-Guadalupe Community School’s Ted Friedlander Gymnasium.

Wendy Baumann, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)

Wendy’s contributions to the Hispanic community date back to the late 1980’s when she was Executive Director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Under her leadership, the Chamber saw significant growth in membership and was named “Hispanic Chamber of the Year” by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. As Wendy moved to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, she has transformed the young nonprofit into a leading engine for small business development statewide. Part of this transformation stemmed from the ever-expanding presence of Hispanic entrepreneurs, often overlooked or denied access to capital to launch or grow their businesses. Now with bilingual staff in several of the state’s offices and specialized services and workshops for small business owners conducted in Spanish, WWBIC has become a valued resource for a new generation of Hispanics in Milwaukee and throughout the state. Wendy and her team can be credited with the expanding services to the Hispanic/Latino, increasing by 117% over the past 5 years and providing business education or lending to more than 1,500 clients.

Jim Popp, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

A longtime Wisconsin resident, Jim has been a committed volunteer in the community. His Board service includes United Way, Children’s Hospital, and Boys & Girls Clubs, among several others. Under his tenure with JPMorgan Chase, the company has increased investments in personal and commercial loans for Hispanics in Wisconsin while also supporting many community initiatives. With the UCC, Chase has expanded its support for the UCC Neighborhood Development Initiative, which provides counseling and services for first-time homebuyers in Milwaukee. With more than 20 years of support for the initiative, Chase is the largest private support for this program. Throughout the greater Milwaukee region, Chase Community Investments in Hispanic initiatives include homeownership, education, and economic development.

Gale Klappa, WEC Energy Corporation

UCC’s relationship with the WEC Energy Corporation and its predecessors spans nearly the entire 46 years of UCC’s existence. Gale expanded on that relationship with investments in UCC’s education programs, including Bruce-Guadalupe Community School’s technology center, science labs, green initiatives, reading interventions, precollege programs, and neighborhood development. Gale’s leadership increased volunteer efforts and student mentoring at UCC. A respected community partner, WEC Energy Corporation supports a cross-section of greater Milwaukee initiatives serving Milwaukee’s Hispanic population. As one of the lead supporters of the United Way (another valued UCC partner), WEC Energy Corporation provides support for basic needs, health, and education programs.

Mark Shapiro, Jewish Community Center

For nearly ten years, the JCC has provided Bruce-Guadalupe Community School students with a summer experience at the JCC Rainbow Day Camp. For our students, this is often their first excursion outside of Milwaukee without their parents and involves many new adventures in the outdoors. Last summer, JCC Cares brought more than 100 youth and adult volunteers with the Maccabi Games for a day of action and improvement to the Walker’s Square Park. Under Mark’s leadership, we continue to explore additional connections in the areas of Jewish/Hispanic cultural exchanges and understanding.

Badger Mutual Wall of Fame

The young achievers will be acknowledged on stage at UCC’s 46th Anniversary Dinner, and their pictures, as well as brief overviews of the students’ accomplishments, are framed to be hung on the hallway walls of the UCC and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School. UCC is proud to recognize the following students:

Music has been a significant part of Elizabeth (Eli) Avalos’ life for close to a decade, starting with her participation in the Latino Arts Strings Program in fourth grade and continuing through her participation in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and now performing with the UWM Peck School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra. She has been a leader among her peers in UCC’s Youth Volunteer Corps and Youth Empowered to Succeed program. Eli is pursuing a degree in music performance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which she looks forward to using as a bridge to promote social justice issues in the community and to teach music to future generations.

Gabriella Avila never seems to slow down, whether she’s spending her summer days volunteering with UCC’s Youth Volunteer Corps, spending weeks at a time volunteering at Lake Valley Camp as a Leadership Trainee, or volunteering at the Latina Resource Center at UMOS. She has participated in the Milwaukee Visionaries Project with two submissions accepted at the Milwaukee Film Festival, and she has been a member of University School of Milwaukee’s cross country and track teams for both her freshmen and sophomore years. Gabriella’s eyes are on the future, and she hopes to someday become an immigration attorney so she can give voice to her community.

Esmeralda Mercado may be behind the scenes when she’s participating in stage crew during Divine Savior Holy Angels High School’s productions, but she’s a role model within her community, having spent the last three years as part of UCC’s Leadership Council, staying active in the school newspaper, and volunteering at St. Adalbert Church before transitioning into co-leader of the parish Youth Council. With six Advanced Placement and Honors-level courses under her belt, Esmeralda is focused on her future but still wants to find more ways that she can help others. After college, she hopes to open a homeless shelter.

Mariah Olmo-Santiago has her whole future plotted out, because after she graduates from Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, Brookfield Academy, and then an Ivy League university, she wants to be an author. She has been dancing as a part of UCC’s Bomba y Plena program since fifth grade, and she has spent two years in student council at Bruce-Guadalupe Community School. BGCS teachers and staff praise Mariah’s maturity, strength, and humility, noting how Mariah embraces her position as a role model for other students and always goes above and beyond what is expected of her.

Eibar Robledo-Perez is a familiar face around UCC, because he has volunteered at so many events and in so many capacities throughout the agency. He has created short films with the Milwaukee Visionaries Project for the last two years and currently serves as Bruce-Guadalupe Community School Student Council President. Eibar is excited about his future, already looking ahead to pursuing a medical career at Yale University after he graduates from University School of Milwaukee. Eibar takes being a role model very seriously, and his teachers note how well he demonstrates this position through his strong work ethic, love for learning, and unrelenting optimism.

About United Community Center:

The United Community Center (UCC) provides programs to Hispanics and near South side residents of all races and ages in education, cultural arts, recreation, community development and health and human services in an effort to help individuals achieve their potential by focusing on cultural heritage as a means of personal development.

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