Home Madison Centro Hispano program to encourage savings among Latina women

Centro Hispano program to encourage savings among Latina women


Centro Hispano of Dane County plans to accept participants for their upcoming Latina Saving Initiative program this summer. 

“The enrollment process is not open yet but it will be open sometime in the summer. We are currently hiring someone who will do this initiative,” Centro’s Workforce & Career Pathways Manager Norma Gallegos Valles said.

Discussions about the program began several months ago after CUNA Mutual Foundation suggested a partnership between Centro and the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, a D.C.-based organization. Centro and WISER are collaborating to implement the Latina Saving Initiative, an emergency savings pilot program for Latina women.

“With longer life-expectancies than other demographic groups, Latinas have a greater need to save. Yet there are significant obstacles to successfully building wealth which leaves many Latinas facing older age with fewer assets,” said WISER president Cindy Hounsell.

Valles hopes this program lifts the confidence in Latinas in managing their finances. She believes women have a lot of knowledge and bring wealth into the community, however, discussing finances is still seen as taboo. Valles said CUNA Mutual thought Centro would make a good partner in helping address financial wealth gaps. 

“CUNA Mutual has had a good relationship with Centro Hispano and they knew about our Caminos Finance program,” Valles said, referring to the 10-week training offered in partnership with Madison College, the United Way HIRE Initiative and employer partners. This particular program also connects participants with potential employers and helps them explore career opportunities in the finance sector.

“Right now, 70-percent of our Caminos Finance program are women,” Valles said. “…The goal of this program was to re-engage Caminos Finance graduates who have already gone through the program so we’re going to train them with a curriculum.” 

CUNA Mutual awarded WISER a grant to implement the partnership with Centro. This partnership includes working to train Centro’s staff and leaders to share information, educate peers, and enlist volunteers to form an independent community support network. 

“At Centro, we’re always thinking about community so one of our goals is always to figure out ways to create community,” Valles.

She also said Centro and WISER plan to build a sustainable program that will last in the future. In addition, Centro is working with another national partner, MANA, A National Latina Organization to work with local credit unions that will accommodate small deposits and provide access to a low or no-cost savings account.

“Right now, our main credit union partners are UW Credit Union, Summit Credit Union, and Dane County Credit Union,” Valles said.

She explained that as part of the program participants might be asked to save $10 a month and at the end of the program women may end up receiving a matching deposit from the credit union. Centro hopes to start with a hundred women and plans to offer a bilingual curriculum in both English and Spanish.

“Part of the training curriculum is for participants to become familiar with the credit unions, institutions, and open up a savings account,” Valles said.

The Latina Savings Initiative focuses on building wealth and cultivating sustainable living after retirement. Centro plans to release more information for prospective participants to enroll soon, however, Valles encourages interested members of the community to contact the organization directly. 

“We know that access to proper resources facilitates women to exercise their individual agency and change the community and the world,” said Karen Menéndez Coller, Executive Director of Centro.