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News > Alumni Stories > Alumni Spotlight - Erica Andrade

Alumni Spotlight - Erica Andrade

Learn more about alumni, Erica Andrade and the path that led her to where she is today.
Erica Andrade
Chief Program Officer (CPO)
El Centro, Inc. – Kansas City, KS
Alma Mater: Undergrad KU (BA in Latin America Studies - 2001) Master in Public Administration (UMKC – 2019)


Tell us more about your current role: 

I’ve worked at El Centro for the last 19 years. First I working directly with the Latino community in KCK developing and managing programs related to adult education and community health and then I became the CPO two years ago. Now I oversee all programmatic departments for El Centro which include; our community health projects of Health Navigation and Promotoras de Salud, our economic empowerment services of emergency assistance, financial literacy, VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) and our newest Go Green to Get Green job training project. And finally our grassroots advocacy and community mobilizing project. Just as it’s my staff’s job to help and support our community, it is my job to help and support  them so we can continue to provide high quality programing and services that not just provide immediate relief from the issues and barriers our communities face, but to advocate and push for change that will positively impact their lives. I also oversee special projects like our COVID relief efforts and represent El Centro and our client’s needs as part of collaborative coalitions like the Health Equity Task Force.

Describe what receiving the HDF scholarship meant to you at the time:

I am a first generation college student, after graduating from JC Harmon HS in KCK I decided to first attend KCKCC for my freshman year and then KU after where I graduated with a BA in Latin American Studies. Being the first in my family (immediate and extended) to go to college, this was a path that was completely foreign to us and I had no road map or anyone that could guide me through the process. I applied for Financial Aid and any scholarships I could find, which researching on my own ended up being the HDF scholarship and McDonalds, which is where I worked at during high school. I applied for the HDF Scholarship on my own with no idea if I’d done it right or if my essay was good enough, but receiving that letter that I had been approved and that KCKCC and later KU would match it was an exhilarating moment. It helped me believe that higher education was really possible and that when I put my mind to it I could figure anything out, even if it was on my own.

How did your experience as a HDF Scholar help you be successful? 

That first experience of researching and looking for opportunities and then completing a process like applying for a scholarship on my own was challenging, intimidating and little scary but it really did kick start the trajectory of my future. I have never let my situation determine where I could go or what I could accomplish. Everything since then has been about looking for opportunities, taking chances and then believing I could accomplish those goals through hard work and determination.

What advice would you give to current HDF scholars? 

To dream big but work harder, and to never let doubt or circumstances determine the size of their goals.

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