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As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, The Latino Academy of Workforce Development becomes independent organization


Since 2011, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development has created a welcoming space that understands and respects the tremendous challenges of the immigrant life experience as it provides education, workforce training and job placement for a growing Latinx community and other underrepresented populations.

And now, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development is Wisconsin’s newest Latino-led independent nonprofit organization.

“I’ve always wanted the Latino Academy to be independent,” Latino Academy’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Baltazar De Anda Santana tells Madison365. “I always thought that the Latino Academy was born to be independent. Our Latinx community – our working community – needs to have an independent organization that can make its own decisions.”

For many years, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development has been an organization within the nonprofit agency Vera Court Neighborhood Center, Inc.

Baltazar De Anda Santana

Independence now comes, De Anda Santana says, after a year of planning with an advisory board about how to best advance the Latino Academy’s focus on equitable access to education, employment and economic opportunities.

“One of the reasons I left Latino Academy some years ago is that I didn’t see that independence happening. That’s why I came back,” he says. “I saw the Latino Academy having a lot of potential. Now we are independent.”

But what does that mean?

“More work,” laughs De Anda Santana. “It means new challenges and new opportunities. It means that we make decisions instead of us depending on someone else. People who look like our students who have the same experiences as our students who have a thick Mexican accent like many of our students … we are the ones who now will decide where we want the Latino Academy to go.”

The Latino Academy has been growing for over a decade as a program within the Vera Court Neighborhood as it supports more than 10,000 individuals in providing the region’s only bilingual and culturally competent workforce training and adult educational services. 

 “We are very proud of the wonderful work the students and staff of the Latino Academy have done and we are confident they will continue to expand their quality work as an independent organization,” stated Vera Court Executive Director Thomas Solyst in a statement.

On Thursday, the Latino Academy will host a reception with honored guest Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to celebrate their 10th anniversary of the organization and unveil the future as an independent organization. The program will share highlights from Latino Academy’s first 10 years of growth and future vision for supporting the education and career goals of Wisconsin’s Latino community.

“We are very excited about Gov. Evers coming and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will also be visiting and recognizing us. County Executive Joe Parisi will also say some words during the reception,” De Anda Santana says. “We want to make sure that the Latino Academy is on the map as the newest formed Latino non-profit. We’re actually looking forward to continue to work together with Centro Hispano, Latino Chamber, UNIDOS, and other groups.

“We are independent right now and we are where we are right now because of the support of the community. That’s something that we can never take for granted,” he adds. “I think that when we were created, we responded to a need. I think little by little we have continued to work to ensure that we meet those needs concerned with the inequity of employment and in education, as well.”

Working with a wide range of educational and skills development partners, the Latino Academy’s program offerings have expanded steadily to include commercial drivers license training, manufacturing, forklift and construction, GED completion and ESL classes along with job readiness skills and continued professional support into the workplace.  

De Anda-Santana was one of the co-founders back of the Latino Academy back in the day.

“The Latino Academy was founded back in 2009, but the first funding that we got for the Latino Academy was through the City of Madison back in November of 2011,” he says. ” I remember getting one of those neighborhood emergency program grants.

Miriam Morales gets her commercial driver’s license (CDL) through the Latino Academy of Workforce Development.









“Many times folks think of Latino Academy and identify Baltazar as the Latino Academy. That’s wrong,” he adds. “The Latino Academy is the students … the students who come every day, who sacrifice. Without the students, we could not have Latino Academy.”

De Anda Santana says that Latino Academy’s independence is “just the beginning of our journey to further strengthen our Wisconsin community and provide the pathways for our students to advance and prosper.”

“We need to continue innovating. One of the things that is going to be really exciting is that we are unveiling our new mission statement and our new vision statement and our brand-new values,” he says. “We have a newly formed board of directors made up of 13 members. Many of these folks are people who have been with the Latino Academy from the very beginning.

“With the support of our local community, we hope to keep on growing. Folks are still going to need good employment. To be independent is exciting. We are new. The Latino Academy is one of the youngest siblings, so to speak, but we are a strong sibling,” he adds.


The Latino Academy will host a reception to celebrate their 10th anniversary and unveil the future as an independent organization on Thursday, Feb. 24, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Garver Feed Mill, 3241 Garver Green in Madison.