Marucci Guzman’s family moved to central Florida from Puerto Rico in search of resources for her sister, who required educational and health opportunities not available on the island. From an early age, Marucci watched as her parents tirelessly served their community even when they were struggling to make a better life for their own family. Marucci brings her passion for helping others to her job as Executive Director of Latino Leadership Inc. Recently, she spearheaded an effort to develop an initiative to provide resources and information for families impacted by autism. Under her guidance, Latino Leadership Inc. inaugurated the first fully bilingual autism center in Orlando, serving clients in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford MSA. The Santiago & Friends | Family Center for Autism’s mission is to provide culturally responsive, family centered interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The center also offers workshops for parents on how to navigate and access the best insurance and educational services to meet their children’s needs. Beyond her work on behalf of Latino Leadership Inc., Marucci volunteers her time and talents to the Orange County Library System Board of Trustees, the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County, Orange County Council of PTA, and the Education Foundation of Osceola County. Marucci is also a National Hispanic Leadership award recipient.
What inspires you to be a leader?
Without a doubt, my daughter inspires me to be a leader. Her rose-colored perception of the world pushes me to help make the world into the great place that she perceives. At seven years of age, she doesn't see race, income brackets, or disabilities. My motivation is that when she becomes an adult, she will not only know it's her responsibility to give back and be a public servant through whatever capacity she chooses, but that she encounters a community that is better because of the work I've done through my leadership.
Who is your hero and why?
Without hesitation, I can say I do not have just one hero; I have several. My parents are my heroes. The difficult life choices they've made have been to provide the best life for my sister and me. They are selfless and have always strived to provide an example of humility and responsibility to serve. I am who I am today because of their life lessons. Furthermore, I look at my sister who has raised my beautiful nephew, who has autism, with such grace and perseverance as a hero as well. Every day is a new challenge. She has tackled all the obstacles that come with an ASD diagnosis head on and never once has said, "why me?" On my worst days, and we all have them, I look at my family and see that no obstacle can stand in the way of success. It is up to me to make the most of my life and never, ever feel sorry when things do not work out as I had envisioned. It is only a hurdle on a journey to success.
In your opinion, what's the biggest issue in the Latino community?
This is a tough question to answer because the biggest issue affecting Latinos varies with a person's background and life experiences. We often make the mistake of grouping all Latinos together. Time and time again, we have seen that we are not a culturally homogeneous group, even though we are an amazing group of compassionate and caring people. Currently, Puerto Rico is suffering through one of the worst economic times for the Island. On the brink of bankruptcy, families are relocating to central Florida daily. Our organization is trying to provide services to these families—employment and access to adequate healthcare are priorities. Conversely, the undocumented families that we serve look at both political parties to act on comprehensive immigration reform so that DREAMers can also achieve the American dream. Independent of what countries we were born in, protecting and providing for our families is our biggest priority.
Since 2006, the Coors Light Líderes program has raised awareness and highlighted the achievement of national and local leaders within the Hispanic community. The program offers up-and-coming Latino professional leadership tools, counsel, and networking opportunities. Join the conversation at www.coorslightlideres.com, www.facebook.com/CoorsLightLideres, LinkedIn and on Twitter using #CoorsLightLideres. “For nearly a decade, the Coors Light Líderes program has recognized 128 Latino leaders who are inspiring others and making a difference to improve the quality of life in communities across the country,” said Karina Diehl, Director, Community Commerce and Partnerships at MillerCoors. “We applaud the outstanding accomplishments and dedication of each Líder and are excited about awarding the 2015 Líder of the Year with a $25,000 grant that will help support the Latino community.”