Leon Berrios, Information and Referral Specialist and Advocate and local community leader for Nashville's Conexion Americas, recently participated as one of 11 fellows in the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) fellowship program in Kansas City, Missouri. The fellowship offered up-and-coming leaders the opportunity to meet with experts and scholars from across the country to learn about their challenges and successes in the community development field.
Leon traveled to Kansas City from February 23-25 to attend NALCAB’s fellowship workshop on “Understanding How to Make Community Development Happen,” focusing on the role of Latino leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sector. This workshop featured local Kansas City leaders speaking on entrepreneurship as a tool to ensure the economic integration of Latinos into the U.S. mainstream economy.
“I am really excited and honored that NALCAB has launched this fellowship program and given me the opportunity to be part of a great group of community leaders working towards building sustainable communities across the U.S.”The fundamental fellowship requirement for Berrios: to complete a comprehensive program or project analysis for Conexion Americas and the local Middle Tennessee community, offering new and innovative methods to meet the increasing range of needs facing the community.
In his existing role at Conexion, Berrios primarily helps immigrants who are facing problems navigating the U.S., specifically regarding judicial matters. In addition, he is a meeting organizer, presenter, and educator; having served in this capacity to promote social justice for numerous groups and nonprofit organizations.
Berrios is a multi-lingual leader skilled in jurisprudence procedures including analysis, investigation, mediation and conciliation both nationally and internationally. Prior to Conexion Americas, he worked for Meeting Points, a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization dedicated to raising consciousness about the human rights issues women and youth face through education and communication. There, Leon participated in a project sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICIF), which resulted in a major body of work titled “Some are Different – Some are Equal” which evaluated the human rights issues associated with the consistency of access to resources and use of methods for prevention of HIV/AIDS in individuals.
Berrios also worked for the National Government of Nicaragua where he served as an Investigation Analyst in the Special Investigation Unit for Children’s Rights and as a Consultant for the Human Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office. As an Investigation Analyst, Berrios coordinated efforts with the Organization of American States (OEA) to analyze human rights claims, develop rural volunteers to monitor human rights abuses, and train community leaders on laws concerning family violence against children and adolescents. As a Consultant, he managed the first ever traveling investigation team that assisted local residents with investigation, negotiation and resolution of human rights complaints.
Leon has volunteered his time with various organizations, including Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Right Coalition (TIRRC), Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American Studies, and the Metro Action Commission’s Board within the mayor’s office. Additionally, he has received Congressional recognition for his participation as a Tax Consultant in the VITA program, where he has helped hundreds of low income families complete their taxes. Leon graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2001 with a Law Degree from the Centroamericana University in Managua, Nicaragua.
The mission of Conexion Americas is to help Latino families realize their aspirations for social and economic advancement by promoting their integration into the Middle Tennessee community. The need Conexión Américas is addressing in our community is best understood in the context of the remarkable demographic changes taking place in Nashville. The 2000 Census showed a 446 percent growth of the Hispanic population in Nashville from 1990. By 2000, public agencies and nonprofit organizations were dramatically challenged by this wave of newcomers. Although a few programs in large nonprofit organizations were addressing particular and isolated areas of these newcomers’ needs by 2000, no organization was fully focused on Latino families in a comprehensive way. Furthermore, no organization had full cultural competence to work effectively with our community’s newest neighbors coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) represents and serves a geographically and ethnically diverse group of non-profit community development and asset building organizations that are anchor institutions in our nation’s Latino communities.