Director of Hispanic Services laid off |

Director of Hispanic Services laid off

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Jesse Gutierrez, executive director of Nevada Hispanic Services, said Carson City’s Hispanics should not see a change in services after the director here was laid off last week.

“I’m reassuring everyone we’ll keep doing everything we were doing before,” said Gutierrez, who will now run both the Reno and Carson City offices.

Raquel Knecht was laid off last week after about 15 years of service.

“We’ve had financial constraints just like everybody else,” Gutierrez said. “We had to cut back. We had to make some hard decisions.”

He said the rest of the staff remains and will continue the immigration and translation services as well as counseling and other programs.

The fate of Salsa y Salsas, the annual festival celebrating Latino culture, is undecided.

“It depends on the funding and sponsorships we can get,” Gutierrez said.

Leticia Servin, an advocate for the Hispanic community, said she was shocked to hear of Knecht’s layoff. She said it came at a time when need is at its highest.

“There really are kids who are starving here,” she said. “There are programs available from other agencies, but a lot of times you need a Social Security number. If you don’t have one you can’t benefit from the program.”

She said many people are turning to churches for support, and she’s working with the pastor from St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church to help meet the need.

Servin, a teacher’s aide at Mark Twain Elementary School, is also involved in a host of advocacy groups. She is working now to develop programs in conjunction with the district attorney’s office, the school district and Community Council on Youth to help Latino youth through early intervention.

“It’s what I enjoy doing,” she said. “I’m a Latina. Someone a long time ago helped me out. I now see a need in our community, and it’s tremendous.”

Other services are available through Western Nevada College, said Lupe Ramirez, executive assistant of student services, but Knecht will still be missed.

“My heart’s broken,” she said. “It’s such devastating news.”

She said she hopes the level of service in Carson City remains the same. One of the things she’s working on is helping Hispanics go to college.

She’s hosting a series of workshops to give prospective students and their parents information on admission and financial aid.

City Manager Larry Werner said, “There is a large percentage of Hispanic people in the city. Our concern is making sure they have adequate protection. It seems to make a lot of sense to have an agency that can bridge that cultural gap.”

Gutierrez said the Carson office’s four remaining part-time employees will continue to do that.

“We wish Raquel well and hope times will turn for the better,” he said. “Our goal is not to shut down offices. Our goal is to open offices.”

He said they will be working on finding ways to become a self-sufficient organization.

Knecht was unavailable for comment.

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at or 881-1272.

Information nights at Western Nevada College for potential Hispanic students will be 6-8 p.m. in Marlette Hall.

Friday ” Financial Assistance

April 3 ” “Bridge to Success” program

May 1 ” Academic Counseling

June 5 ” Registration for Classes

For additional information, contact Lupe Ramirez at 445-3344.