Jorge Martinez, Program Director
We recently sat down with Jorge Martinez, Program Director of Latino Connection. He is celebrating 10 years of success of the Latino Connection program. Jorge was kind enough to allow us to interview him about his experiences in the last 10 years, the details of the program and why this program is so important to our community.
Congratulations to you, Jorge, and the Latino Connection Program on this, your 10th Anniversary!
How did your relationship begin with Easter Seals Oregon?
Jorge Martinez: 10 years ago and while I was working at the Oregon Employment Office, one of my good friends saw a job opportunity with Easter Seals as Latino job developer. She contacted me right away, inviting me to apply for the opportunity. I interviewed with my previous Director, Ruthanne Cox Carothers and that is how my relationship started with Easter Seals.
What had you been doing prior to your work with the Latino Connection?
JM: I worked as a Case Manager/Job Developer for OCHA (Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement), PCC Worksource, and as a Business and Employment Specialist for the Oregon Employment Department.
How did this help prepare you for the challenges of becoming Program Director for the Latino Connection?
JM: Grew up in Mexico City where abuse and taking advantage of disadvantaged people were part of our normal day… Becoming a Director was not part of my plan, but having the opportunity to represent my Latino Culture in different organizations plus education and work experience gave me the vision of creating a group that was sensitive to our cultural needs, creating an environment where Latinos feel welcome and respected with the total convincement that they belong to a program that will provide the outcomes that they were looking for. That was my vision…
How many individuals has the Latino Connection provided services to?
JM: Every year we screen and assist about 300 Latinos in different Counties including: Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Polk, and Yamhill.
What services do you provide?
JM: We provide a huge variety of Educational and Employment services, always with the intention of preparing them and giving them tools that our Latino population with disabilities need. Some of the services are:
Resume Workshops and Individualized Support
Interview Workshops and Computer Classes in Spanish
Application Workshops and Access to Community Resources
Mock Interviews, Job Development, & Coaching
American Working Culture and Job Assessments
ESL Classes and Motivational Classes, just to mention some of our services
Are there eligibility requirements for your clients? Is there a waiting list for your programs?
Currently there is not a waiting list
Will you please share with us the growth and development of your organization over the last ten years in terms of your staff, clients, and the services you provide?
JM: Well, ten years ago I was the only staff working with the Latino Program as a job developer, serving about 30 to 40 clients per year and only with employment services.Little by little and with the help of staff and volunteers, we are now a team with 15 staff members and about 5 volunteers that are able to help about 300 Latinos every year, not only with employment services, but now with educational, prevention and motivational services that help our participants develop their skills and overcome barriers. As a result, now we have more Latinos with disabilities obtaining and retaining employment as well as being able to navigate resources and becoming more independents. Last year we were named by Vocational Rehabilitation, “One of the most productive and over delivering outcomes program in the State of Oregon.”
Of all the services you provide is there one in particular that is in highest demand?
JM: Employment services in general, including the American Working Culture workshop, job development services, job coaching, job retention, and motivational workshops.
Do you need volunteers?
JM: Volunteers are a great part of our success; fortunately we always have a waiting list of volunteers waiting for an opportunity in our agency.
Has your focus changed/expanded over the past ten years?
JM: Yes, in some areas the Latino population has increased more than 200% since 1980. I can see the need for programs outreaching to the Latino population with disabilities and my vision is to continue expand our program in order for us to reach Latinos with disabilities in need of services.
What do you see in the next ten years for the Latino Connection Program?
JM: Finish our expansion here in Oregon and implementing and expanding our vision into other US states.
You will soon be opening a third location in Gresham. When will it open? What can you tell us about it?
JM: February 1st we will be totally ready for our Latino population in Gresham at this location:
2951 NW Division, suite 142, in Gresham. We will have staff ready to provide the same quality services, they have been training in our Portland location since December 2013. 100% of our services will be provided at this location.
Jorge, what is your personal mission?
JM: Part of my success with Easter Seals is because I really believe and adopt our Easter Seals mission:
To provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and/or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work, and play in their communities.
I believe that our own life experience builds us to become somebody in our life and is our responsibility to perform and commit to what we believe, building relationships that last a lifetime, focusing on the needs of the people that we are representing.
I will never fail in my mission to succeed. I will never quit in my desire to achieve my goals.
Is there anything in addition about your program or the Latino community that you would like tell us about?
JM: Only to express my gratitude to all current and previous staff as well as volunteers throughout these last 10 years, without their help I know I could not achieve the level of success that our program has. Thank you.
Again, congratulations on your success and accomplishments of these past ten years! You and the Latino Connection staff can take pride in the achievements of your program and the enrichment of the lives of the Latino community you provide here in Oregon.
Jorge with some of the Portland Latino Connection Staff.
Not all staff members are pictured.
To learn more about Latino Connection click here.