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United Community Center

United Community Center

We’d like to turn your attention to the United Community Center, a community-based non-profit agency that lives for the challenge. Their efforts turned around a private-school with no future into a school serving over 800 that other schools now model themselves off of. What else is on their list of things to do? Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director tells us that it is growing and being able to serve their community, improving neighborhood stability and providing educational, cultural and recreational opportunities to strengthen its community relations. They’re nowhere close with completing all the things they have set out to do. Learn more about The United Community Center’s efforts, dedication and what’s in store for the future in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


United Community Center/Centro de la Comunidad Unida






Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director


Milwaukee, WI

Current residence

Milwaukee, WI


Graduated Carroll College – 1974, Waukesha, WI, MA at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 1975

Past experience

City of Milwaukee, Housing Authority of Milwaukee, Boys and Girls Club, Private Consultant with Milwaukee Public Schools



About the Non-profit

The United Community Center is a community-based agency that serves more than 20,000 people a year. This mission of UCC is to provide programs to Hispanics and residents of Milwaukee in the areas of education, cultural arts, recreation, community development, and health and human services. UCC will assist individuals to achieve their potential by focusing on cultural heritage as a means of strengthening personal development and promotes high academic standards in all of its educational programs

Most notable milestones / achievements

  • Consistent and continued growth to meet the growing and changing needs of the Milwaukee’s Hispanic community which now totals more than 100,000 individuals.
  • Less than 15 years after taking ownership of a struggling private school, we have turned it into a thriving model charter school that serves more than 800, mostly low-income Hispanic, students who receive test scores equal to those in suburban districts. Recently published book documenting journey with school.
  • Helped improve the neighborhood stability of the area immediately surrounding center through the assistance with more than 100 home closings in the last few years. Stabilized community, helped increase property values, and improved quality of life for families.

What’s the niche?

Providing a wide range of services to meet the needs of the entire family — from kids at the age of 3 to elderly parents and grandparents. Creating a relationship and bond with families to help them in all areas. Designing programs with bilingual and bicultural staff who can relate to clients on a personal and unique basis.

Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director

What’s in store for the future?

  • Growth of Early Childhood Education Program
  • Construction and Development of Latino Geriatric Center
  • More assistance to high school students to pursue higher education to promote and build the young Hispanic professional population

Who would you like to be contacted by?

  • Those interesting in helping us pursue our goals and grow our programs through financial or other support.
  • Socially conscious, Spanish speaking professionals interesting in joining our team to serve the community

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Guiding principle of the organization

Helping all of clients reach their highest potential. Making their needs number one, and helping to reach their goals.

Yardstick of success

The success of our clients and our families is our success.

Goal yet to be achieved

  • Continuing to meet the changing and developing needs of our community. As much as things stay the same, things change and we constantly try to adapt of our offerings and services to ensure we can meet those changing needs.
  • Helping all of our students attend Colllege some day
  • Helping all of our families achieve the dream of homeownership
  • Ensuring all of our elderly receive quality care, and feel loved, respected, and joy in this stage of their life.

Best practical advice

  • FOCUS. Build a mission and stick to it.
  • Ensure you can offer a quality a program, and do not keep growing with out quality. Always choose quality of quantity. While being responsive to community needs is essential, must be balance with focusing on your strengths and offering services in those areas.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

The community has generously supported our efforts for more than 36 years, and many individuals have helped us a long the way. These individuals often comment about the quality of programs we provide. They remark about the high standards who hold for ourselves but our clients, and how we work to help them achieve those standards.

What motivated the people who started the organization?

To provide a safe place for youth to send time in the afternoon. Started as the “SPOT” in 1970, the organization was meeting recreational needs of young people, and the center attracted Hispanic youth by allowing to do activities and interact with people who shared their culture and experience.

What keeps your organization motivated today?

The organization including the staff and board are motivated by the success of our clients. Every student that graduates our eighth grade and goes onto successfully complete high school and attend college is a motivator. Every senior who is now active, healthy and happy because they are not home alone and lonely is a motivator. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the families we help is the best motivation. The desire to continue helping them creates a constant motivation for everyone involved.

What do people in the organization like best about it?

The organization is a truly a family. Our services are intended to serve the entire family, but also the staff become very involved with the families, and in fact many staff have families in the programs. The sense of family and community is something outstanding about the organization.

What do people in the organization like least about it?

As with every family, people might have sentiments that one program gets more attention than others, etc. But in the end everyone knows that the organization works to make the best use of resources to help all families, and while at sometimes the focus on one aspect of the agency, that does not lesson the importance of any other part of the agency.

Biggest pastime outside of work for most people in your organization

Arts and Sports. With Latino Arts, Inc. a sister organization housed inside the UCC, many our clients and staff enjoy a appreciation of the arts, and spend time attending visual and performing artists brought by Latino Arts to share the diversity and rich traditions of all of the Hispanic world.

Three interesting facts about the organization

  • We are one of the largest organizations in the US, with a comprehensive array of family services for the Hispanic community in a bicultural bilingual environment.
  • We serve more than 20,000 clients annually
  • Our campus is almost 200,000 square feet and continues to grow.

Three characteristics that best describe the organization

  • Family-oriented
  • Trustworthy, consistent and operates with high quality and integrity
  • High standards of operation and services

Favorite cause (outside of yours)

To ensure the quality of life of our students and our families — job training and employment programs are essential for the parents so they can obtain good paying and secure jobs to secure the future of their families.

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Also this week

Nellie Hsu LingAlliance of South Asians Taking ActionHazami Sayed

Don’t forget!

Young & Professional Profile | News2Know

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