United Community Center Serves More Than 18,000 People in Milwaukee’s South Side

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The United Community Center may not be all things to all people on Milwaukee’s South Side, but it comes pretty darn close. “The UCC has had a tremendous impact on the city of Milwaukee because it touches the lives of so many of its underserved citizens,” says Michael Byrnes, UCC board member.

What started nearly 50 years ago as a small youth center has grown into an intergenerational community service agency with a staff of over 300, more than 1,000 volunteers and 50 corporate partners.

Annually, the UCC serves more than 18,000 people, primarily from the Latino community. It offers educational services, senior support, homebuyer counseling and pre-college and career preparation. Other programs range from athletics to substance use disorder treatment. The UCC also operates two schools, elderly housing and a fitness center on an annual budget of $27.5 million. “Historically, the UCC has been an equalizer to get people to the middle class,” says Executive Director Ricardo Diaz. “It’s not just about getting people out of poverty but helping them become productive citizens of society.”

The UCC has embarked on an exciting new initiative: a state-of-the-art second campus at 22nd and Becher streets. It will be anchored by an innovative early childhood education program in which teaching will be done through both academic structure and play, and teachers will do assessments of students throughout the day using smart technology. There will also be a health and dental clinic on site.

“The first five years of a person’s life are the most important, in particular because of language acquisition,” Diaz says. “We want to help our children make the most of those years.”

This Story is part of the December issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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