Head of Latino service agency to resign to pursue law degree

Rodriguez helped increase outreach, size of agency

July 22, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

After increasing social service outreach to area Latinos and leading a campaign to raise money to expand her agency's offices, Haydee Rodriguez is stepping down next week as executive director of the Centro de la Comunidad.

The 33-year-old Guatemala native, whose full name is Haydee Marilu Rodriguez de Leon, will pursue a law degree full-time at the University of Maryland, where she's in her second year of evening classes, focusing on international corporate law. She leaves the nonprofit outreach and social service center as it plans to double in size.

"It's been difficult to juggle both things, and I finally had to make a decision and let one of them go," Rodriguez said. "This was not an easy decision to make."

Rodriguez, whose position pays $40,000 a year, officially steps down from the center in the 2700 block of Pulaski Highway July 31. The center's board of directors, which has begun searching for a replacement, will start interviewing candidates next week.

"We're really looking for someone who has experience with nonprofits, knows about grant writing and has management skills," said Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, board chairwoman.

Since opening in 1995, the center has played a major role in helping Baltimore's growing Latino population adapt to the area, by providing language, job and social services. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, 45,972 Latinos live in the Baltimore metropolitan area, up from 7,602 in 1990.

To keep pace with the growth, Rodriguez worked to secure $200,000 this year in state money to expand into the center's currently-unused second floor and provide more working room to the staff of four full-time employees and one volunteer. Construction is expected to begin in four months.

In April, the center opened a satellite station in Charles Village to offer support services to Latinos there once a week.

"I am most proud of increasing the visibility of the center with the at-large community," Rodriguez said. "I think the center will continue to grow as a one-stop shop for social services."

Rodriguez de Bittner said the departing Rodriguez has helped the center achieve that goal by raising money. "She's done an outstanding job," Rodriguez de Bittner said. "She came in and really organized the center and helped us to move to another phase."

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