When Rosario Reyes founded the Latino Educational Training Institute (LETI) in 1998, she sought to empower Latino immigrants and low-income communities in Snohomish County. And for the last 24 years, she has done just that.

What began as a small, volunteer-run organization has blossomed into a multi-program, fully staffed community resource. Some of LETI’s most marked changes have occurred within the last four years, beginning with the hiring of the organization’s first employee in 2019. At that time, the agency was awarded a Verdant Health grant which allowed them to bring a full time Wellness Coordinator on board. Although Rosario couldn’t have known it yet, this staff person would be essential in LETI’s work to sustain uninterrupted services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

When lockdowns began in March of 2020, LETI was in the middle of facilitating its first practical bookkeeping certification course. Thankfully, the newly hired Wellness Coordinator was ready. With working knowledge of virtual learning platforms like Zoom, she quickly adapted the remainder of the course to ensure participants could continue their education online and graduate on time. This approach was applied to all other LETI programs, which successfully continued throughout the duration of stay-at-home orders.

Since that time, LETI has embraced a hybrid approach to all programs. They have found that having courses available online decreases barriers to access and LETI has seen steady increase in registrations and participation. This programmatic growth has been accompanied by additional staff members—LETI is now a proud team of 12 employees!

Rosario credits the organization’s successful growth to LETI’s ability to remain connected to the community it serves. Each program is informed by participants who are given the opportunity to give feedback, identify needs, and provide ideas for expansion. Rosario also encourages other organizations to prepare for growth by keeping a pool of potential employees in mind. Having these already established relationships is helpful when grant funds are made available and hiring needs to occur quickly. She also recommends empowering employees and cultivating their growth, efforts that can strengthen not only an individual’s skill set, but the organization as a whole.

Through each step of this tremendous growth, LETI has remained focused on supporting the Latino and low-income communities that inspired the organization’s founding. From connecting individuals to GED classes offered in Spanish, to helping families access culturally responsive food banks, and everything in between, LETI makes a profound impact in our community every day. You can learn more about their work at LETI at letiwa.org.