Nancy Lucero-Altamirano’s journey to America was tough.
Lucero-Altamirano came to the United States at a young age with her family, facing language barriers and new culture.
As a first generation, undocumented college student, Lucero-Altamirano attended MCCC then transferred to U of M, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies and a master’s degree in social work. Lucero-Altamirano is now MCCC’s new assistant director of multicultural and community engagement.
Her experience helped inspire her to open a nonprofit organization called Puente, meaning bridge in Spanish. Understanding the complexity of immigration firsthand, she said she was motivated to create a platform that aids both immigrants and those who may not have access to certain resources.
Through Puente, Lucero-Altamirano said she and her team offer a wide range of essential services. These include transportation support, translation assistance, cultural promotion, community advocacy and guidance in navigating resources.
“Everyone has a story, and we should be mindful of that,” she said.
Sumary Hernandez-Pinero, Puente co-founder, said she and Lucero-Altamirano saw a need in the community and were ready to help.
“I knew Nancy from church. We saw the community and the work that needed to be done and we wanted to make it better,” Hernandez-Pinero said. “We decided to open Puente as a nonprofit to give us access to other resources in the community.”
After 3 years of service, Lucero-Altamirano and Hernandez-Pinero continue to help people who face language barriers.
One of their key initiatives is scheduling doctor appointments for those who can’t speak English and providing translation during these appointments. They also assist with special education evaluations, parent-teacher conferences, housing and apartment application processes, as well as naturalization and citizenship journeys.
The program also offers an extensive variety of assistance, including employment support, help with accessing state benefits through programs such as MI Bridges, immigration and law related guidance, access to health care, educational support and food.
Emily Hernandez-Pinero, the daughter of Sumary, a volunteer at Puente, said she benefited from the program.
“Puente is one of the best things to happen to the community,” Hernandez-Pinero said.
Lucero-Altamirano isn’t stopping at Puente. She also plans to start groups for students at MCCC that will begin during the winter semester.
She said the groups will provide a safe, supportive community for students who identify as African American or Hispanic and those who are first generation college students or single parents.
The multicultural groups are scheduled to meet on Wednesdays in the S Building.
“I plan to make safe spaces for all of our students, so they know they aren’t going through this journey alone,” she said.
She said the idea is to offer a platform to connect students, share experiences and uplift one another on their educational journeys.
“I hope that anyone who hears my story, it sheds light on the bigger picture of immigration,” Lucero-Altamirano said.