Thursday, Sep 15, 2022
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we are spotlighting leaders who make valuable contributions to the Greater Lawrence Community. Click on the image to read their biography. Check back as we add more leaders during Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15.
Nelson Butten emigrated to Lawrence, Massachusetts, from the Dominican Republic in 1993. He has almost 30 years of experience in community development and organizing. He started his career in the non-profit sector as an AmeriCorps member and is currently a Partnership Director at Lawrence Public Schools. Before working for Lawrence Public School, he was the Director of Community Organizing and then a Co-Executive Director at Lawrence CommunityWorks. Nelson is a devoted leader in our community with specific interests in housing, education, and economic related policies, impacting mostly the Latino and undocumented population.
Nelson is also a trustee of the Lawrence Public Library, a Massachusetts Statewide Family Engagement Center Advisory Committee member, and a Fellow of the Influence 100 Program of the nationally recognized non-profit Leadership Academy and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Noemi’s parents are both Dominicans. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico. This is the reason why she usually identifies as 100% Dominican and 100% Puerto Rican.
Math and Sciences have been part of her affections since her early life. Consequently, she became a research scientist.
Noemi Custodia-Lora holds a Ph.D. in physiology-endocrinology from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Universidad de Puerto Rico. Before joining NECC, she was a post-doctoral fellow at Tufts Medical School. She joined the faculty of NECC in 2003, teaching courses in nutrition, human biology, and anatomy & physiology. Later on, she became the first Latina to be appointed NECC Vice President of Lawrence Campus and Community Relations. Through the creation of PIÉS Latinos at NECC, she has served her passion, which is increasing access to higher education and fostering community partnerships for the Hispanic community. This initiative supports immigrants by validating their professional credentials. Besides serving on the National Skills Coalition on Racial Equality Panel, she leads several projects with university partners in the Dominican Republic and spearheads the NECC Center for Adult Education and the Center for Equity and Social Justice.
Delia describes herself as a Black-Latinx, mother to four amazing girls, Sasha, Mara, Elena, and Sofía: where her leadership, learning, and educating others truly began. Delia was born in the Dominican Republic and has lived in the United States since age 12. She has made Lawrence, MA her emotional home; as her heart beats for this city.
Delia is the proud school principal at Esperanza Academy; her life mission, calling, and joy. As an educator and community leader, she has held positions with Lawrence Family Development Charter School, Lawrence High School, and Notre Dame Christo Rey High School. In her advocacy, she has developed socially responsible leaders throughout the Merrimack Valley. She is the founder of Nosotras: Una Fuerza Natural and Amigas: two women’s empowerment groups that honor women’s voices and experiences. For the last four years, she has had the pleasure of working with students at the college level holding positions at Merrimack College, Boston College, and Northern Essex Community College.
Delia graduated from Northern Essex Community College where she received her degree in Early Childhood Education. Her love of learning led her to Lesley University to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education & Psychology. She later received a Master’s in Social Work from Boston College, and a second master's from Worcester State College in School Leadership Administration. Her passion for education brought her to the Dominican Republic, where she became the school principal at Colegio Dominico-Americano and obtained a post-graduate degree from Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo.
What does it mean to be a LatinX community leader? For Delia Durán-Clark, it starts with visibility. “A big part of being visible for my daughters, my students, and my community is as simple as showing up,” said Delia. “I show up when I don’t feel like it and I show up regardless of whether someone applauds me for it. I show up in every moment like I’m meant to be there, proud of who I am and what I have to offer. And I hope those small acts of bravery inspire others to show up too.”
A leader in our school and across our community. Because anyone who knows Delia knows that when she shows up, she empowers those around her to do the same. “One of the most important things I can do to encourage other women/girls is to share my story with them. I’ve had a long winding journey from the Dominican Republic to Lawrence, with peaks and valleys, beautiful views, and broken heels, but I’ve never lost sight of my purpose— to lift others as I climb,” she says.
Delia feels privileged to walk the halls of Esperanza Academy as a mentor, motivator, and role model for her students. Every day her joyful presence teaches them to love, respect, and believe in themselves and each other. Ms. Delia is a woman with a story, a story that inspires.
In 2008, Danaris Mazara was working a minimum wage job, her husband was laid off from a local manufacturing company, and they found themselves on the brink of facing foreclosure. During this difficult time, Danaris’s mother gave her $35 to buy groceries for her family.
Rather than do as her mother instructed, Danaris purchased ingredients to make flan, which she sold to her friends and former co-workers. She then used those sales to purchase more ingredients, and after two weeks, that $35 had grown to $500. She didn’t know it yet, but Danaris, a native of the Dominican Republic, had gotten her first taste of entrepreneurship.
A few years later, Danaris gained the confidence to apply to an EforAll Pitch Contest, and then, the one-year, free EforAll Accelerator Program. Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day in 2015 Danaris opened her bakery, Sweet Grace Heavenly Cakes, named after her oldest daughter.
Danaris now employs 14 people, including her husband, and is currently working on expanding her business to her neighboring retail space.
Reflecting on her EforAll experience, Danaris notes “One should always seek support. At first, I was the typical entrepreneur, in my own little bubble. EforAll’s Spanish and English Program has provided the support group that all entrepreneurs should be a part of.”