DETROIT — Dr. Sonia Acosta, who was born and raised in Mexico, never thought a former American peace activist would motivate her to live a life of community service.
“I was inspired in one of my history classes by what Jane Addams did,” Acosta said. “She would have low-income people come to a big house to do trainings, take classes and learn job skills. For some reason, that always stuck with me.”
After receiving a scholarship from the Rotary International Foundation in 1984, Acosta attended Western Michigan University, where she completed her master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology.
Upon moving to Pontiac, Mich., in 1982, Acosta took a role as the first supervisor of Centro La Familia, which, at the time, was a small mental health-focused initiative of Oakland County Community Health.
Under Acosta’s leadership, the program has blossomed into Centro Multicultural La Familia, a nonprofit organization that provides services including mental health support, interpretation and translation assistance, education opportunities and more.
“There is an increased awareness that we need to work with this community if we want to prosper,” Acosta said. “That means all of us.”
Acosta, president and chief executive officer of Centro Multicultural La Familia, is the second Game Changers honoree who the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank are recognizing as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“We’re honored to celebrate Dr. Acosta and the work taking place through Centro Multicultural La Familia,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Impacting thousands of people each year, Dr. Acosta is delivering much-needed access to vital resources for the Latino community in Pontiac.”
According to Acosta, Centro Multicultural La Familia continues to grow as a multifaceted organization. She estimates the nonprofit currently serves more than 3,000 Pontiac residents.
“We have a unique opportunity to offer some of those services to people who would otherwise not be able to access that,” Acosta said. “We’re especially talking about the Latino community or even other ethnic groups who usually don’t feel welcomed after coming from other places. We try to provide a place where they feel safe and wanted. We want to be as culturally open as possible.”
Acosta said by providing a wide range of social services, Centro Multicultural La Familia is “more recognized than we have ever been.”
“We have business entrepreneurship opportunities, a school readiness program and radio program,” Acosta said. “The radio especially has opened a lot of doors for us because a lot of people are listening.”
Acosta said she is honored to be named a Hispanic Heritage Month Game Changers honoree and believes the recognition will raise awareness of the value and need of Centro Multicultural La Familia.
“I’m a very shy person,” Acosta said. “I usually don’t talk much about what I do. So, I prefer that the spotlight is put on Centro Multicultural La Familia, not me. I like when more people can know about what we do and can come to us for the services we provide. It fills me with pride to be part of this.”
To learn more about Centro Multicultural La Familia, visit CentroMulticultural.org.