GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Alejandra Meza might best be described as navigator.

“We get a lot of people who come in searching for assistance with one thing and through our different assessments, we identify other barriers or challenges, and we focus on connecting them to make sure the barriers are being addressed and there’s a plan in place, they’re connected to resources, community partners,” she said.

As family support services manager at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, she has her hands in a little bit of everything:

“Assistance with housing and utility bills, civil and human rights, health and wellness, our food initiative, COVID initiatives, mental health initiatives,” she listed.

She said the Hispanic Center is able to provide such a variety of services to the community because it understands the Latino community and the unique challenges people face, particularly a language barrier.

“Not having that language accessibility when trying to search for different service or understanding different systems. It’s nice to have people here who can connect with them and are able to provide that support,” Meza said.

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Meza has worked at the Hispanic Center since 2013. Her background is in early childhood education. She started teaching preschool at San Juan Diego Academy just down the road from the center, a position that proved to be a launching pad for her career.

“From there, I started connecting with the families, the students’ parents and kind of learning their different issues and what was going on and sometimes playing the role of navigator,” Meza said.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, as Grand Rapids Public Schools students celebrate their heritage, Meza’s message of helping your community is on full display.

“I want to tell them to continue celebrating their roots, their heritage and be proud of where they came from,” she said.