Michael Alvarez: Our group covers area mostly ignored in mainstream
When I started as my organization’s director in May, my running joke was that the group was kind of like the witness-protection program. Nobody knew about it unless they had direct contact with it — and that included Hispanics. Our mission is to help residents succeed by educating, connecting and assisting the Hispanic community in Northern Nevada. It boils down to one word: integration.
Our organization does several things that are unique to Carson City. One of the programs we offer is done through the Mexican Department of Education (INEA), an online opportunity for people to finish their primary education (grades 1-6) and secondary education (GED). For those who grew up in agricultural families and customarily were withdrawn from school to work the fields and help earn money, this is a great opportunity to complete their education. INEA also offers the program to natives of Central and South American who live in the United States. We are the only location in Northern Nevada to offer it.
Another service we provide is a partnership with the Mexican Consulate from Las Vegas. The consulate’s mobile team comes to Carson City two to three times a year to assist Mexican citizens with new passports and other paperwork as needed. This brings people from Reno, Lake Tahoe and around Douglas and Washoe counties. One of our biggest draws is immigration help, for Hispanics who need everything from their original documents translated for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to renewal of resident cards, petitions and citizenship applications, to legal advice and help from an immigration attorney. There are a great many Hispanics in the Carson area who are doing their best to obtain citizenship the correct way, and there are some who await the immigration reform that’s to come through with hopes of fixing their papers and not be deported.
In conjunction with immigration, we assist with the goal of becoming an American citizen by offering a free citizenship class that helps hopefuls learn the necessary topics to pass the citizenship exam in English. We could not do the incredible things we do without the great help of passionate volunteers who want to help other Hispanics with a common agenda: to prosper and create a future for our children.
Michael Alvarez is the director of Hispanic Connection of Northern Nevada.