Serving the Community

Valeria Kawas takes the initiative to represent and strengthen Kenner’s Hispanic community.

Last year, Kenner Mayor Mike Glaser and his administration noted a dramatic increase in the Hispanic population in Jefferson Parish. With slightly more than 64,000 Hispanic residents in the parish, 24 percent identify as Hispanic/Latino in U.S. Census Bureau data.

Noting the growth represented in this data, Glaser and his team identified a need to bridge the gap between local government and the Hispanic community. To aid with this effort, he appointed Valeria Kawas, a Kenner resident who was born and raised in Honduras, as the City of Kenner’s Cultural Coordinator. Kawas previously worked as an anchor/news director for Telemundo 42 in New Orleans for almost a decade.

“The transition from television to local government has been easier than what I thought,” Kawas says. “I really appreciate the fact that Mayor Glaser saw the potential in me. We all share the same vision, which is to serve the community.”

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Kawas’ dedicated position as liaison between the mayor’s office and the Hispanic and other under-served communities focuses on expanding community development and increasing engagement. She works with Hispanic organizations to build and maintain rapport, exchange ideas and share resources that are aimed to assist the Hispanic community. She says that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (HCCL) has played a significant role in these efforts.

Kawas says that regular communication with the HCCL has helped the City of Kenner to better engage with its Hispanic population. Partnering with the HCCL on community events such as job fairs and sponsorships, including the city’s inaugural Hispanic Heritage Month Fair and the Chamber’s Excelencia Gala, is a key part of this working relationship. Kawas hopes to continue and build upon this partnership as they support a shared vision of serving the Hispanic population through education and resources.

Her passion for fostering a close relationship between the Hispanic community and local government has helped Kawas serve Kenner residents in her role. Kawas actively promotes Kenner’s Hispanic Resource Center (HRC) on Florida Avenue. The HRC offers or facilitates services, such as education and medical assistance, to Spanish-speaking residents.

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“The HRC is very active in the City of Kenner and our residents consider this a safe place,” Kawas says. Other resources provided by the HRC include job and health fairs, assistance with food stamp applications, ACT prep classes, food and backpack giveaways, as well as a toy giveaway each December. “We try to do different things and expand services to provide necessary resources for the entire community of Kenner, so anyone is welcome,” she says.

Kawas estimates that a minimum of 100 people attend any given activity or event put on by the HRC. For more information on Kenner’s HRC, go to www.kenner.la.us/182/Hispanic-Resource-Center.

The City of Kenner will host its annual Hispanic Heritage Fair in September, and Kawas is excited for the city to celebrate Mexico’s independence for the first time at an event on Sept. 15 at Kenner’s Heritage Park. The event will be held in coordination with the Mexican consulate.

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Though many in the Hispanic population do not report to census surveys, Kawas says, “We believe that this is the fastest growing minority in the city.” She says it is gratifying to work with the City of Kenner to meet the needs of that growing population.

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