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November 17, 2022
Reach High: Stories of Leadership | Carlos Graupera
Carlos Graupera, the CEO of SACA (Spanish American Civic Association), has been serving Lancaster City for almost 50 years. Carlos founded SACA in 1973, with the help of local Catholic charities, when there was a significant demographic change in Lancaster. They created SACA as a civic infrastructure and platform that would allow the Latino population to receive needed services and enable the general community to engage constructively with the growing Latino community.
Carlos and his family emigrated from Cuba in the 1960s, so he knew firsthand the needs and struggles of the immigrant experience. He refers to SACA as an “evolving experiment,” shaping the organization’s programming by responding and adapting to the community’s needs.
During Carlos’ tenure as CEO, SACA has opened Nuestra Clinica, a bilingual mental health and drug and alcohol outpatient clinic, and launched SACA Development Corporation, a housing development corporation dedicated to homeownership opportunities for inner-city residents. They also produce WLCH FM Radio Centro, a full-time Spanish language educational public radio station.
“What we have tried to do over the last 50 years is create a sense of community,” Carlos said. “And I think we have achieved that.”
While SACA started with a focus on the Latino community, they are now an inclusive and diverse representation of the entire local community. “We stopped being ethnically-driven and became community-driven,” Carlos explained. “In the process, the community became our client.”
There have been times when Carlos has faced opposition to his efforts for equity and inclusion, but he is a patient and persistent advocate. “If you endure, the people who disagree with you begin to understand what you’re trying to do and become some of your biggest supporters,” he adds.
The CEO attributes the success of the organization’s projects to the dedication and commitment of his team. Several of them have worked at SACA for 20, 30, and 40 years, and Carlos call them heroes. “The world is full of good ideas. It’s just not full of people that are willing to take a risk, stand up for what they believe, and stay on the path. Change takes time,” he said.
As SACA continues to evolve, Carlos has a modern vision for the legacy of the organization and its role in the community. “I hope the future generation is less concerned with getting stuff and is more consumed with protecting the planet, protecting our communities, and making sure that everybody gets a fair shake in the American experiment,” said Carlos.
With new projects and new leaders emerging in SACA in the years to come, that vision of the future might not be too distant from reality.
The Reach High series is introduces you to business and nonprofit leaders who are thoughtfully innovating with a spirit of servant leadership. Brought to you by High Foundation, you can find out more about their mission to be a Bridge to Opportunity for the Lancaster community at highfoundation.org.