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Latino Academy of Workforce Development celebrates new home, looks to continue growth

Alejandro Cayetano. Photo by Omar Waheed.

Food, community and education were celebrated by The Latino Academy of Workforce Development as they opened doors to the Madison community to tour their new space Wednesday evening. The nonprofit settled in a new office and training space just off the Beltline at 2909 Landmark Place in the Metastar Building.

The new space was sought after as the Latino Academy continued to serve those in need of its educational services than its former spaces could accommodate. The new space has six offices, a conference room and three large training rooms. Visitors for the grand unveiling were given an excited tour of the space where staff like Jorge Aguilar, 28, Madison, gleefully speculated on all the new possibilities for the nonprofit’s new home.

 “We have the TV so we can stream the World Cup later,” Aguilar said with a laugh while he showed visitors around the lounge area of the office.

The tour of the place died down for a short program held by the Latino Academy — its executive director and co-founder Baltazar De Anda Santana couldn’t hold his excitement as he thanked supporters and academy students.

 “I just want to take a moment to recognize the most important person in the room and when I call your name, I want you to stand up and be proud and recognize everything you have done,” said Santana. “I want all the Latino Academy students to stand up.”

Baltazar de Anda Santana. Photo by Omar Waheed.

Listen to what Baltazar de Anda Santana had to say after the event on our podcast:

The open house was also a chance for the Latino Academy to tout its impact in Wisconsin for 2022. According to the organization’s 2022 impact report, 2,249 individuals received instruction and support services with 6,264 total hours of instruction and support services, 201 initiated a career and 151 received some form of credentials such as a GED, commercial driver’s license or forklift certification.

About 300 people attended the event, including Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Fitchburg Mayor-elect Julia Arata-Fratta.

Even with the impact the Latino Academy made, it’s still looking to go further. Relocating after becoming an independent nonprofit was only the first step. The Latino Academy is in the process of continuing its efforts in providing a robust program for work development for the Latino communities in Wisconsin.

 The nonprofit looks towards hitting its fundraising goal of $10 million to launch the Regional Transportation Training Center later this year. The center aims to fill the statewide shortage of commercial truck drivers. The Latino academy is also in the works of expanding its workforce career fair series, enhancing its grassroots approach through data driven solutions on what students need and gaining more public and private collaborations to provide its student opportunities in new industries.

 While expansion is on the Latino Academy’s mind, they can’t but be proud of what it has already accomplished and the success stories of its students.

 Alejandro Cayetano is one of the academy’s first students. Born in Mexico on a small farm, he stopped attending school after the sixth grade because his family couldn’t afford it. Cayetano thought of his future and knew that a path was in the United States — he moved here when he was 20, settling in Wisconsin Dells. After a year he found the importance of needing to know English and moved towards getting a full education. He enrolled in the Latino Academy when he learned about it to learn English, later got his GED and took computer classes, and is now in his last semester at Madison College where he is studying to become a personal trainer and hopes to have his own business.

 “It is not only my life that has been changed behind these walls. Many others have also found a new path,” said Cayetano. “These walls may be new, but the spirit it builds and has been built with the stories of many others like mine.”

 The Latino Academy of Workforce Development is a nonprofit in Madison that serves Latino communities across the state. It was founded in 2011 as a program of Vera Court Neighborhood Center and became an independent nonprofit last year. It continues to grow and serve students with ESL and GED programs and obtaining certifications for workforce development for career advancement.