LORAIN — Free pizza helped turn Tim Carrion’s life around.
Carrion, new Coalition on Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress president, said he was a struggling student at Lorain County Community College in 1991. Motivated by the free pizza being served, he attended a meeting of Los Unidos, a student group.
“It was a triggering event that prompted me to start getting involved and to truly become a leader and to feel confident that I could be successful,” Carrion said Thursday. “I could’ve easily gone in a different direction and dropped out like some of my classmates.”
Carrion graduated with an associate degree in psychology from the college and received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Cleveland State University in 1997. He also served in the Ohio National Guard from 1995 to 2001, and from 1996 to 1999 helped mentally ill people reintegrate into the community while working as a residential team leader for The Nord Center, a mental health and drug treatment organization.
Carrion said working at Nord, including assisting a mentally ill student from Ohio State University, was humbling and motivating.
“Because I’m healthy, because I’m blessed, I have a responsibility to pay that forward in the community,” he said.
Carrion said he is bringing that sense of responsibility to the coalition presidency. The coalition is a nonprofit group that cannot endorse political candidates and must have limited political lobbying to keep its tax-exempt status.
However the group has spotlighted issues like immigration and health-care reform at past leadership meetings.
Carrion said he wants to increase coalition youth membership — the group has about 60 members — and promote issues such as improving education and employment for Latinos. The national Latino unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in June compared to the overall rate of 7.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Carrion also wants to expand community outreach and collaborations with other Latino groups. Among the groups the coalition works with is El Centro, a nonprofit Latino outreach group that hosted the coalition’s October candidates forum.
Victor Leandry, El Centro director and a coalition member, said he has known Carrion since 1996 when the two worked together at Nord. Leandry said Joel Arredondo, who Carrion defeated, did a good job.
“But like any organization, sometimes you need to change the leadership to bring new ideas and new excitement and new membership,” Leandry said. “This might do it.”
Arredondo, elected in 2003, said he’ll remain active in the coalition and wishes Carrion the best.
“It’s good to see we have new leadership and new ideas,” said Arredondo, who is also City Council president.
Carrion said by expanding collaborations, the coalition and other groups with similar missions can be more proactive and effective.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.