Staff spotlight: Carlos helps bring communities together

Small Towns

After migrating from Mexico to the United States in 1994, Carlos Barcenas discovered that, though the landscape may change, rural living still encompasses the same ideals.

“Rural brings a sense of agriculture, families, connection, and opportunity no matter where you’re at,” said Barcenas. “Rural America is important to me, because, throughout U.S. history, it has played a significant role in all areas of the country, and is the backbone of what the country stands for today.”

Carlos has been working as a community organizer for the Center for Rural Affairs since December 2014. In that time, he’s embraced his role of intercultural leadership development and coaching.

This involves facilitating conversations among leaders and town members interested in creating welcoming and inclusive neighborhoods; providing education, training, and information for minority leaders seeking community leadership roles; and providing options for awareness and education of diversity topics to different organizations.

“The opportunity to meet new people and have conversations that help them grow and see things in a different light is incredibly rewarding,” said Barcenas. “Building relationships with communities, organizations, and individuals with a passion for what they do inspires me every day. Cultural engagement and understanding have been part of my journey; intercultural development with individuals, organizations, and communities is my passion.”

Before becoming part of the Center for Rural Affairs team, Barcenas served as executive director for the Grand Island Multicultural Coalition for three years. There, he provided services to immigrant communities and facilitated training and presentations to organizations and institutions about diversity, immigration topics, and intercultural competence.

He also worked with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services as a community health worker, addressing issues in health disparities among minorities.

Because of that work, Barcenas has been able to assist countless people and groups come together.

“Through the Center, I have resources available to me to help towns, organizations, and individuals grow their intercultural leadership skills,” he said. “I want to collaborate in the process of achieving vibrant communities.”

Carlos says working with his teammates in the Center’s Farm and Community program has also been instrumental in helping those groups succeed, and they challenge him to grow in his work.  

When he isn’t bringing communities together, Carlos, his wife, and their four children enjoy time outdoors grilling and gardening, as well as going to church and traveling as much as possible.

Barcenas’ work is primarily focused in several communities in Nebraska, including Schuyler, Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings, Crete, Nebraska City, Norfolk, Lincoln, Omaha, Holdrege, and Lexington.