“Even if there are community services available to Hispanics in Cartersville, communication was extremely difficult. We just wanted to help” explains Annabel Rodriguez-Romero, a bilingual Parent Coordinator & Title III (ESOL) Specialist at Cartersville City Schools when asked about the motivation to start a new player in town; a new non-profit called “The Bartow Hispanic Center”. Annabel, along with her co-founder husband, Joel Romero and a number of volunteers, lead this new organization focused in connecting Hispanic families with the services currently available in Cartersville, GA and Bartow County in general.
Bartow Hispanic Center may be new, but has already garnered important support from active board members, a variety of local community leaders, organizations and businesses, starting with “The Fund for Philanthropy” acting as fiscal agent, Georgia Highlands College, Cartersville Medical Center, Daniel Ahart Tax Service, Shottenkirk Honda, Bartow Collaborative, Goodwill, Ser Familia, and local churches, businesses, and non-profits.
Since its inception, Bartow Hispanic Center has hosted two annual Latino Fairs (health fairs with entertainment for the entire family and resources) and soccer tournaments, keynote speakers, English classes as part of its ongoing programming, as well as counseling per appointment with local experienced bilingual trained counselors. Families are also referred to Ser Familia and workshops offered by community partners and friends.
Other activities and community events include trainings and awareness sessions for families in topics as diverse as sexual abuse, HPV vaccine, steps to buying a home, citizenship classes, immigration informational sessions, etc. A program to offer Spanish classes for the community is also in process to begin in spring 2017.
Hispanics account for close to 13% of the population in Cartersville, based on the latest Census report in 2010. Cartersville City Schools Hispanic enrollment makes up 18% of the total number of students enrolled all four schools. Bartow Hispanic Center is fulfilling an important role in their area, but most importantly, they are putting a face to a community that often times is not represented in studies, reports, government offices or even local data. The work the Bartow Hispanic Center is doing along with the latest report from PORTAL from UGA are interesting developments in community building.