Canales, the Latino Community Liaison for Montgomery County
Claudia Canales is all about giving back to the community and diversifying Montgomery County. For Canales, it was a personal decision to become the Latino Community Liaison in Montgomery County's Office of Community Partnerships. As the Latino Liaison, she can both interact with the Hispanic community and make sure that they have a voice at the table. "It's a reward to make an impact and create change in any way, shape or form," Canales says. As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, Canales stresses the importance of diversity in our community.
Q: What are some of your goals for the next year?
A: My goal for the next year is to continue to build those relationships that we've already started to established. Due to the political climate, it's very hard to get those sort of communities to trust the government, so we've been proactively reaching out to them. I'm letting them know that we are separate from the federal level and that we are there to help them. Montgomery County has always been a welcoming county for a diverse immigrant population.
Q: What difficulties have you faced over the past year?
A: We've had budget cuts like anybody else, so we're working with less and doing more. We're very lucky in Montgomery County that we have a lot of nonprofits that work in partnership with us to reach out to those communities. So I think that's been the most difficult part - telling people that you're safe, your information isn't going to be given to anybody. We've seen a decrease in people obtaining services that they're eligible for, because they fear something will happen to their information. I think that's been the biggest problem.
Q: Why is it important to make Montgomery County so diverse?
A: It's important, because if we do our share to be educated, to be informed about different ethnic backgrounds, it means that we're fostering a trusting relationship. It's really important to be accepting of our diverse community. The more you bring everyone to the table, the more things will function correctly, and I think that's why we're so neat. We have that mindset that everybody's welcomed at the table.
Q: Are you doing anything special during Hispanic Heritage month?
A: Councilman Leggett has always done something to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. He will be at Rio in Gaithersburg and we're gonna do an outdoor event next Friday. We're going to have salsa dancing with the radio station El Sol providing us with music. We'll have the Board of Elections there to educate and register voters. We'll have somebody from Health and Human Resources giving us examples and handouts of the importance of physical activity and the importance of flu shots. They'll be able to give out information for people that don't have health insurance. Mr. Leggett is very proactive when it comes to celebrating not just the Hispanic community, but all the diverse communities that we have. We have Pan African; we have Asian American; we have the Caribbean; we have the Muslim community.
Q: What can students do to help integrate the community?
A: I think the first thing is acceptance. These people come from different ethnic backgrounds, and I think that you guys play an extraordinary role in all of this, because you as the youth are going to lead us in the future, right? The more leadership roles that you guys play, researching about the different ethnic backgrounds that are around you, sharing information, it makes a difference. Just know that these people came here for the same opportunities that you and I grew up with. Be sensitive to the fact that English isn't their first language. Be there to support them, to acclimate them in our community; they're going to be willing to do that, too, because they want to make an impact in our community. Be accepting and friendly. Be responsive. Don't diminish what they contribute. I think it goes a long way.
Sam Kulp. Hi! I'm Sam. Other than writing articles for SCO, I enjoy playing tennis and watching the Eagles play on Sunday. #FlyEaglesFly More »