The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley is located at 520 E 4th St. The Center runs a number of programs, including a senior center, food pantry, and social services. (Maeve Kelly/ B&W Staff)

Community Voices: Shatter Glass Ceilings with the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley


Established in 1968, the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley works to improve the quality of lives of Hispanic and non-Hispanic individuals and families by empowering them to become more self-sufficient, while promoting an intercultural understanding in the Lehigh Valley. HCLV supports individuals across the life spectrum with comprehensive social services and community programming. 

Raymond Santiago, a Bethlehem native, has served as the executive director at the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley (HCLV) since August 2023. Santiago hopes to shatter glass ceilings with HCLV’s new Cultural & Linguistic Workforce Development Center. (Photo Courtesy of Raymond Santiago)

Gone are the days when the Hispanic community will only be “qualified” for entry-level positions. Think back to your first memory of a Hispanic actor on the big screen. Did you notice that so many times most are shown as janitors, maids, nannies or in some other service industry job?

In a time when the world is consistently evolving and innovating, why have many in our Hispanic community felt stuck in their career? A few reasons come to mind: workforce development coupled with the lack of opportunity for growth, due to barriers such as some in the Hispanic community like language and economic status.

Every day at HCLV, we strive to provide the resources needed for families and individuals to remove barriers. Whether it be food from our pantry, our vibrant Basilio Huertas Senior Center, or our new Cultural & Linguistic Workforce Development Center, we are here for South Bethlehem and the community at large. 

This work is one of the many reasons I was drawn to HCLV. As a newly appointed executive director and a former board member, I have had the honor to work for our community every day, witness the needs of our neighbors and assist in creating solutions.

Growing up in the Pembroke neighborhood of Bethlehem to then becoming an executive director of a nonprofit is something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. I wonder if my path to success would have been met with less resistance and self-doubt if I had a place to learn new skills and feel encouraged to reach for the stars. I think back to my journey, and I wish I had the opportunity to visit a workforce development center just like we have created. 

The Cultural & Linguistic Workforce Development Center is a joint venture between St. Luke’s University Health Network and the HCLV. It has been designed to assist workers at any stage in their career path to access and train for employment opportunities. The Centers will be offering English classes, General Education Development and specialized training in several healthcare positions starting this fall.

Our goal surrounding the workforce development center is for our participants to build job skills and confidence so they can pursue their passion. Some examples of courses that will be offered in partnership with local community colleges are Phlebotomy, Dental Assistant, Nurses Aid and Pharmacy Technician. Here at HCLV, we will be providing services such as resume building, mock interviewing and access to a newly built computer lab to assist in the process.

We are proud of the work being done and the lives already being transformed, yet there is still much to be done to change the landscape of the Latino workforce in the Lehigh Valley.

There is no magic wand that can be waved to diversify management at every company or nonprofit, but what we can do is promise that we at HCLV will fight for your seat at the table and assist residents in acquiring the skills needed to grow in their careers. Let’s shatter some glass ceilings together.

Anyone interested in participating can fill out a survey here. People can contact the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley at 610-868-7800 — extension 225 or email [email protected]. People can also call St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus in Allentown at 484-658-4603 or email at [email protected].

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