FLINT, MI – Asa Zuccaro’s mission is to alleviate some of the struggles of the Spanish-speaking families and individuals in the city of Flint.
At 26 years old, he is the new director of the Hispanic Technology and Community Center of Flint. He pulls inspiration and insight from his family, his heritage, and his experiences to lead the nonprofit organization formed in 2002 and located on Lewis Street.
Born and raised on Flint’s eastside, Zuccaro dreams of increasing capacity at the center, where residents have access to a computer lab and classes, translation services, food assistance and educational services including GED prep and English as a Second Language courses.
“It’s very difficult to integrate, so we have a lot of professional, Spanish-speaking individuals that are locked out of the workforce because their English proficiency isn’t high enough,” Zuccaro says.
He also plans to create an immersive Spanish linguistic and cultural program at the center for all members of the community. He has a goal of creating a community in which everyone is able to communicate with one another, hopefully enabling people to care for one another.
“We want to see a healthy community,” he says.
Growing up, culture always fascinated Zuccaro. His mother’s family traces their Hispanic roots to Mexico and his father immigrated to the United States from Italy. While the world around him often easily classified Zuccaro as Mexican, he himself longed to know more about his ancestral heritage.
After graduating from Genesee Early College and completing a dual degree in Africana Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan-Flint, Zuccaro moved to Mexico in 2014. There, he spent 13 months teaching English as a second language and fully immersed in the culture. And, felt very much at home.
“When I moved to Mexico, it was enlightening to see how much the culture exists in our family,” he says.
While he was there, he also met the woman who would be his wife. They have been married two years and Mildred Silva-Zuccaro left her family behind to join her husband in the United States. It was, Zuccaro says, “love at first sight.”
His own family is a constant reminder of the hardship faced by Spanish-speaking people when they locate here. Trained as a medical doctor in Mexico, Mildred continues to prepare for exams to allow her to practice medicine here and increase her English proficiency.
“When people are locked out of the workforce, it’s difficult. When you’re locked out of the workforce, you’re dependent on somebody else,” he says. “These experiences aren’t unique. How are we going to address these issues?”
Zuccaro wants to add additional options to help prepare Spanish speakers for tests that will allow them to attend collect and enter the workforce. He also wants to add citizenship classes and education on legal issues such as what to do in the event of a roadside stop.
Zuccaro walks from the classroom and through the computer lab, speaking with visitors and staff, passing a vibrantly colored sombrero hanging from the wall. Currently there are a few volunteers who frequent the center to share tips and assist others with their needs. He looks around and sees lots of opportunity to grow and give back to his community.
“I feel like the east side is my home,” he smiles. “When I grew up in Flint, spent my time in Flint, it was always in the eastside. It feels like home. It is home.”
For more information on the Hispanic Technology and Community Center of Flint, check out its Facebook page