Posted by: Latinos Progresando
February 29, 2012
Latinos Progresando’s very own Marcy Gonzalez was selected this month as one of La Raza’s 2012 “Mujeres Destacadas/Distinguished Women” for Community Leadership—an award given to a woman who exemplifies leadership in bringing awareness to issues that affect Latinos.
As part of La Raza’a celebration of International Women’s Month, Marcy was featured in a full-page article in the latest issue. Marcy will also be honored, along with the awardees in Business, Education, Arts & Culture, and Health, at a celebration on March 30th.
We are so proud of Marcy—not only for being recognized with this honor, but for being a person who truly deserves this type of recognition.
This was Marcy’s nomination:
Marselina (Marcy) Gonzalez joined the Latinos Progresando staff after 15 years of working in the for-profit sector, where she specialized in customer service training and management.
Despite the fact that Marcy was earning high wages, with the potential to continue advancing in her corporate management career, she felt called to serve her community in a different way.
Then in 2006, Marcy was offered a position as a caseworker in Latinos Progresando’ s Legal Services program. Although Marcy’s experience was not in the nonprofit sector, and it would mean a considerable pay cut, Marcy saw this as an opportunity to really help people, and accepted the position.
With her extensive management experience, relentless work ethic and ability to build strong, trusting relationships with legal services clients, Marcy earned accreditation by the Board of Immigration Appeals as a legal representative, and quickly developed into the position of the Legal Services Program Director.
In her work as director, Marcy has proven time and again her ability to bring out the best in other people. Having completely reinvented the program’s model, Marcy has helped Latinos Progresando to double its service level, reaching nearly 3,000 families with high-quality, affordable legal services last year. Marcy developed a staff recruitment and training program that has led to a legal services team that includes three accredited representatives, with a fourth expected to achieve accreditation in the spring of 2012. (Three members of the Legal Services staff were former Latinos Progresando clients.)
In addition to managing a staff of 4 and the day-to-day operations of the Legal Services Program, Marcy also manages her own caseload, helping hundreds of community residents navigate the complex immigration legal system with the goal of keeping families together—saving the Little Village/Pilsen community more than $225,000, when compared to the cost of a private attorney. Marcy also leads the VAWA Initiative*, a program that is specifically tailored to support victims of domestic violence.
Through Marcy’s work, Latinos Progresando’s Legal Services Program is the only immigration legal services program on Chicago’s southwest side that is staffed by accredited representatives, and the only one that takes VAWA cases, which are processed completely free of charge.
Marcy’s commitment to her clients is nothing short of amazing: knowing that seniors applying to become U.S. citizens would face significant challenges in preparing for the exam, Marcy recorded the preparation questions onto cassette tapes so that it would be easier to study; knowing the danger and considerable challenges in traveling to and staying in Ciudad Juarez—part of the process to obtain a visa from Mexico, Marcy built a relationship with hotels and hostels so that clients would have locked-in rates for lodging and transportation to and from the Mexican consulate to ensure their safety.
Marcy also regularly conducts educational presentations, like “Know Your Rights” and “Immigration 101,” in community organizations, schools, and women’s shelters to provide information about the immigration system, VAWA, and the risks involved in immigration processes to help families make informed decisions about their future and reduce the incidence of immigration fraud in the community.
Marcy’s tireless spirit, humility, and tenacious commitment to the people in her community make her a perfect candidate for La Raza’a Mujeres Destacadas.
*VAWA (Violence Against Women Act): a provision in immigration law that allows undocumented victims of domestic violence to self-petition for adjusted immigration status, a process that usually requires a legal permanent resident or citizen family member to file a petition on his/her behalf
[Photo Credit] Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune
By Katherine Skiba and Lexy Gross
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