You may have missed its humble one-door entrance at 5 South Broad Street (just off East State Street), but the goals and activities of Latinas Unidas are far from humble. It’s a bustling office-like location on the third floor that’s changing and improving lives, one person at a time.
Started in 1992 as a neighborhood group of Hispanic women – mostly mothers – the informal members of Latinas Unidas hoped to connect immigrant women and their families in their search for improved English, initial employment and simply coping in a new, urban world. By 2001 it had grown to such an important component of the local Hispanic community that it became a part of the Trenton YWCA, providing it with more funding and administration. In 2016, Latinas Unidas became a part of the Princeton YWCA. Support also comes from local foundations, such as the Smith Foundation and Mercer County.
Over these almost thirty years, the Latinas Unidas has grown into a larger and more varied service organization. In fact, its clients now consist of virtually every ethnicity in the city of Trenton, and one can see young men working hard at its many desks and cubicles.
“Our continuing mission,” says Latinas Unidas Program Director Cecy Jimenez-Weest, “is to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen communities.” These are lofty goals, but recently the organization has assisted each year about 200 people who seek its services, such as employment readiness and placement, and ESL instruction and practice. And this year, it’s over 260! As part of its outreach work, Latinas Unidas runs an annual Job Fair for everyone in the Trenton area.
Another aspect of the work of Latinas Unidas is a special program, called EmPOWER THROUGH, which is designed to help young people between the ages of 16 and 24 earn a high school diploma (or equivalent) and obtain a job.
Ms. Weest is most proud of her many years at the Latinas Unidas when she tells stories about how several former clients have told her that their assistance from Latinas Unidas made a very big difference in their lives – a “turning point”, they say.
For more information, see www.ywcaprinceton.org or call 609-777-5404. In a sense, the YWCA Latinas Unidas is all about tools – the skills to cope with life’s challenges in a foreign land, the ability to get and/or improve employment, and the desire for self-empowerment. Turning points, indeed.