Expanding Hispanic programs at Hilltop YMCA


By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Ricardo Soto, welcome desk coordinator at the Hilltop YMCA, was recently awarded the Community Leadership Award.

A local man is working to ensure more services and educational programs are provided to the Hispanic community in west Columbus.

Ricardo Soto, the welcome desk coordinator at the Hilltop YMCA, was recently awarded the Community Leadership Award for his commitment to the development of the Hilltop community – in particular, for developing a partnership between the YMCA and two Hispanic-serving organizations in the Hilltop area.

The Hilltop YMCA is now working with Catholic Social Service’s Guadalupe Center in an effort to include more Hispanic community members. The center offers a wide range of services from senior support to case management, food and emergency assistance, and counseling.

“There seems to be a large population of Spanish-only speaking families in the Hilltop area, and Catholic Services Guadalupe Center already serves a significant portion of that community,” Soto said. “We think that creating this partnership can only benefit and further develop the communities we serve and help us bridge the cultural gap.”

The goal is to encourage more families to take advantage of the services offered, as well as have a place where all questions are welcomed, he said.

The YMCA has also partnered with the Mt. Carmel Mobile Medical Coach at Saint Stephen of Martyr Church to help facilitate a Diabetes Prevention Program – a start of a relationship Soto says he hopes flourishes.

“The main reason why we created this connection was to help reach our Hispanic families that may not have the resources available to get to our other areas where the program is already being implemented,” he said.

The class will be offered in Spanish – a first for the YMCA’s diabetes prevention program.

“The information in the program is directly aimed at shaping the student’s cognition and behavior toward making healthier choices,” Soto said.

Soto, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, says his community was predominantly Hispanic and Spanish-speaking heavily influenced by Mexican gastronomy. His dad is from Mexico, and Soto and his siblings were raised with a traditional Mexican cuisine.

“Based on this, I know how much Mexican food can be modified to make healthier versions of favorite dishes,” he said.

Because it is a student-led program, versus a traditional classroom, Soto plans to attend to capture new ideas himself.

The Diabetes Prevention Program is expected to start at the beginning of 2017.

For more information, go to ymcacolumbus.org/hilltop  or call (614) 276-8224.


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