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Centro director speaks out on nature, service

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Maria Caballero Rubio, executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County, talks with community members about a future nature park at Chehalem Ridge, south of Cornelius.Maria Caballero Rubio is the executive director of Centro Cultural de Washington County, a nonprofit based in Cornelius. Centro Cultural provides education, economic development, cultural exchange and community building for Latino and immigrant communities in Washington County.

Centro has also been helping Metro connect with community members to plan for a future nature park at Chehalem Ridge. The organization also received a Metro Nature in the Neighborhoods grant in 2014 for conservation education. Metro Senior Community Engagement Coordinator Ellen Wyoming DeLoy recently posed four questions to Centro's director.

Q. What is your favorite place in nature?

A. My favorite place to experience nature is in vineyards, orchards and fields. I was influenced from a young age. As a family of 13, we would be out at 5 a.m. before it got too hot to harvest crops and later to plant, weed and prune grapevines and other fruit-bearing plants. The smell of rain on the dry ground, watching plants grow and fruit ripen in the warmth of the late morning sun instilled a strong connection to the earth. Harvesting as a family provided me with a sense of contributing to our family’s well-being and a sense that I can always return.

Q. How do you define leadership?

A. Service and teaching. Leadership is about teaching others to serve with passion, equity and humility. I believe leaders have a responsibility to train and teach the next generation to be leaders. I want to give others leadership roles they are ready for and keep working with them to build up their abilities and confidence.

Q. How does working with Metro fit with your goals for Centro Cultural?

A. Working with Metro helps integrate my community with the greater society, a major goal for the organization. They already feel a connection to the earth, and working on parks and nature projects with Metro helps make a connection to jobs related to nature and sustainability. Working with Metro has helped us as an organization to become more cognizant of wasting natural resources, and environmental sustainability has become part of our ethos.

Q. What are you most excited about for the future?

A. In a big-picture sense, continuing to see the Latino community in Washington County integrate more in the greater community. Supporting our students through education, after-school programs and professional experiences. Continuing to grow parent leadership and citizen classes. Our partnerships with Metro, Intel and others are helping expose people to activities at many levels, including government. Having our community feel that they belong is very exciting.

Ellen Wyoming DeLoy is a Metro staff member. Stories with a byline do not necessarily represent the opinions of Metro or the Metro Council. Metro news is committed to transparency, fairness and accuracy.