Rommel Martin Lopez-Gutierrez
What is your Hispanic Heritage: Nicaragua
What area of Florida do you live in: Ocala/Gainesville
What is your profession: Community Engagement Director
Meet Rommel and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival on Sunday, Oct 17th @ Centro Asturiano! (www.TasteofLatino.com)
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it.
Rommel: I work for a non-profit, Nonpartisan organization called Americans for Prosperity. We work by educating, mobilizing communities to break down their internal and external barriers here in Florida. I work a lot with minorities communities specially with the Latinos in Ocala and Gainesville. We work to help them break those barriers so they can reach their full potential and achieve their American dream. Also, we provided them with the tools for them to have a voice in our government and communities.
I was born and raised in a communist country, and I know what it is not to have a voice and to be told what to do, how to feal and how to think. Also, I arrived in this country, Florida, Miami when I was 10 years old and I saw the difficulties that my parents lived to make sure I had a better future. I want to make sure our new Latino communities don’t have those difficulties, by educating them
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition;
Rommel: I never turn a person away, I always listen more than talk. I ask the community what that is affecting you personally? And how can I help you? I believe in a hand up!! I believe in empowering our Latino community. I will travel if need be 3 to 4 hours to make sure our communities are represented. I have work for the past three years with Juveniles incarcerated and help them have a second change in life. Hispanic’s do not like to talk about this, is very Taboo, but the fact that 25% of incarcerated kids are Hispanic, have an effect in our communities.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it,
Rommel: the biggest challenge I faced was to keep our community active and make sure they still had a voice! The biggest issue was that during the beginning of COVID, the Latino community had challenges that were a lot different from our other communities in Florida. Because of the lack of the language, they faced issues with their kid’s education, where to find help in food and how could they get the proper information about the virus.
The way I was able to overcome that barrier, was to reach out to the community leaders and do training in ZOOM, TEAMS and have the community communicate virtuality and provide the proper information and no more guessing
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)
Rommel: My biggest achievement was implementing a self-stem/leadership and information program in 3 Juvenile detention centers in Ocala/Gainesville and Kissimmee. This program is called D.I.G, Dignity, Independence and Grace. This program target Juveniles that has been in and out of our Criminal Justice system. With the partnership of the Department of Juvenile Justice System of Florida we brought our program to help these kids. People forget that 23% of all Juvenile in Florida are Hispanic’s some of them don’t speak the language and is hard for them to become a better person after they get out. This program provides them with the tools to have a fresh start. Also, I have celebrated for 3 years Hispanic Heritage Month in these facilities and exposed not just the Latino kids, but all the kids and staff of the great contribution’s that Hispanic communities have done for the United States
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?
Rommel: I am currently working in a project on Education for all kids in Florida, especially Latinos, I want to expose the parents to the knowledge that they have the “Choice” in their kid’s education. That a zip code shall not determine what school they go to. That their kids can become anything they put their mind to it and be successful. I believe that our children are the future , and we as immigrants did not leave our native land , not to provide a better future for our children.
Latin Times Magazine: What does be a U.S. Citizen mean to you?
Rommel: To me being a U.S citizen means FREEDOM! Freedom to be who I want, to dream and with hard work reach those dreams, to express myself in a positive way to empower my communities.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation?
Rommel: Sad to say, at this moment we are a divided nation. We are focusing more on what the other side or person is doing wrong. Instead, we should meet at the table, speak our differences, and find a middle ground to help all Americans. Stop thinking on winning, instead we shall think on making our nation a better world for our grandkids.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?
Rommel: Success is not easy; it shall not be easy. What comes easy in this world, is not appreciated it. Work hard, stay focus and empower your community. Dream big, only in this country dreams comes true, but they come true with hard work and dedication. Never give up!
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share?
Rommel: Always go the distance , when you think you cant give no more, push yourself harder.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita?
Rommel: Gallo Pinto y carne asada con queso frito y crema