Seymour native helps Latino communities through new role

Immigration has been a movement and a part of history for thousands of years.

The history books tell the stories of the many successive waves of immigration, such as the pilgrims who embarked from the Mayflower and the melting pot of New York City in the 1800s.

Individuals and families immigrated to the United States for various reasons, including economic stability, safety, freedom from oppression, religious freedom and more.

A new set of barriers and challenges, however, greeted them when they touched foreign soil.

Many of these barriers, such as language proficiency, access to services and support for families, still exist today as the immigration population grows in the United States and even in our own communities, especially with Latino families.

As Seymour native Ashley Caceres takes on a new role as executive director of Su Casa, she is eager to help the Latino community feel safe, be successful and make a new community feel like home.

“People want someone that is trustworthy to them. I want the Su Casa staff to be that for the people and give them the support they need,” she said.

For those who aren’t familiar with the nonprofit organization, its mission is to increase self-sufficiency, health, economic independence and education and ensure Latino families feel safe and belong here.

According to its mission statement, Su Casa believes all residents should have equitable access to the tools and the support needed to be successful regardless of socioeconomic or immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, race or beliefs.

Su Casa was founded in 1999 as a response to the increase of Latin American immigrants arriving to the Columbus area. The majority of these immigrants had limited English proficiency.

Su Casa was established to provide a helping hand and remove barriers to make essential services in the community accessible for those families.

On May 30, Su Casa welcomed Caceres as the new executive director, and already after a month in that position, she has seen success with families through the organization’s support.

Caceres was born in 1996 and raised in Seymour after her parents immigrated from Houston, Texas, in 1995. Both were originally from Mexico.

Growing up, Caceres noticed the growth in demographics from the time her parents settled in town to present day.

“It’s very cool to see the transition from prominently Hispanic to now we are seeing families from Central and even South America,” she said.

The first time Caceres ever left Seymour was to attend Ball State University to study architecture, which she said is the complete opposite of what she does today.

With her mother obtaining her high school diploma and her father only completing up to sixth grade, Caceres was a first-generation college student.

“Even though my dad didn’t finish school, he is a very smart guy and has worked with the same company (Royalty) for decades,” she said. “However, he always likes to joke and say he is the smartest third-grader I know.”

Caceres spent her time at Ball State on the Latinx Student Union board as secretary and president for two years.

During her time on the board, she was part of a pivotal movement to change the student union from Latino to Latinx.

“I was a secretary at the time, and they had to vote twice because the first one went to a tie,” she said.

Caceres said the decision at the time was very polarizing because not many people were familiar with the term.

“In my interpretation of it, Latinx is a term that encompasses all individuals regardless of their gender identity,” she said. “The Spanish language is a very gendered language, but it challenges that idea and is also inviting to queer individuals.”

Caceres served as president during one of the first years it was deemed the Latinx Student Union.

After graduation, Caceres did not find much luck in job opportunities regarding architecture. A friend of hers, Nadia Herrera, mentioned a position at Jackson County United Way involving health care coverage for Latino families.

“I fully went into the position thinking that this will be something temporary and that will help me get familiarized with what is happening in the Latino community in our area,” she said. “I ended up being in that role for four years.”

Caceres said at first, she wasn’t interested in health care coverage, but what piqued her interest in the position was the flexibility to mold the position into what is needed in the Latino community.

From her position as a bilingual health care navigator for Covering Kids and Families, she was able secure a partnership with Su Casa.

In that position, however, she found out quickly that the need for health care stemmed from other needs with which families were struggling.

“I always say it was never just about health care,” she said.

From issues with finding affordable health care to learning how to pay their medical bills, families opened up about their struggles with food security and housing with Caceres.

“When they see that trust and that you can be sensitive to what their needs are, they open themselves up to other issues that are happening in their lives,” she said. “On paper, it was about health coverage, but it also involved a lot of other pieces that was about connecting them to the right services and making sure they felt stable and a sense of belonging.”

In 2019, Covering Kids and Families opened an office in Columbus, and Caceres saw a need in that community, as well.

While working in the Columbus office twice a week, she familiarized and connected with other organizations in the area, one of those being Su Casa.

Eventually, she was offered a space in the Su Casa office as a health coverage navigator.

“When the word got out about what I was doing, I was seeing people back-to-back and got a lot of clients within a couple of months,” she said.

Unfortunately, due to funding, Caceres was not able to continue her position within Su Casa as a health coverage navigator, but that didn’t stop the organization from creating an office in Seymour.

In 2020, Caceres was able to offer Su Casa services within her office in the Community Agency Building in downtown Seymour.

The next year, Su Casa hired Herrera part time to help Caceres in the Seymour office.

Since then, Su Casa has grown tremendously as a nonprofit organization providing family support specialists, connections to services, legal services for family, civil and immigration law, translation and interpretation services for medical and legal documents, mental health aid and volunteer opportunities.

Su Casa has developed a network of volunteers, known as Vecinas, who are individuals that live in predominantly Latino neighborhoods and offer a connection to resources and services.

Vecinas de Seymour has been active this summer providing Zumba classes and homework help for the communities.

Caceres said as much as she loved the health navigator role, she wanted to see the bigger picture and see what long-term help looked like.

“I was looking for the opportunity to look at the bigger picture,” she said. “I was looking for a leadership role where I would be connecting with partners and helping them understand what is going on in the community because it just keeps growing and growing.”

As she connected with Su Casa unintentionally throughout the years, she hopes to navigate the organization in keeping families in mind.

“I grew up using a lot of these services,” she said. “The Jackson County Clothing Center and Anchor House (Family Assistance Center and Pantry) are dear to my heart because we used those services growing up.”

Caceres said during her time working in direct services and seeing where these families are coming from, she believes that will aid her in her new position.

She plans to focus on more stable funding for youth support and immigration service support as well as young Latinos going through the education system.

“I hope to build a stronger relationship with the local consulates to make sure our community is getting the right services they need during their immigration process if they have one,” she said.

With a willingness to learn, Caceres hopes to connect with people who can help her with things, such as securing funding and presenting to large industry partners, so she is confident in her role.

“This is a learning process for me,” she said. “I have loved the opportunities I have had to be a leader throughout my life, and now, I want to use all those skills to drive this organization to a more stable position.”

Throughout her career in helping families and individuals, she has experienced many success stories.

One she said she will never forget was when a woman came in looking for help after her partner was unfortunately deported. With four kids to provide for and everything, including the car and home, in her partner’s name, she was left to fend for herself.

Caceres said she and a lot of the staff at Su Casa supported her through the process and helped her find food resources, job opportunities and other services.

“Things like that can happen in our community and our immediate families, and when you are left with no way to fend for yourself, it can be very scary,” she said. “We were very thankful that our staff was able to help her.”

Throughout her life, Caceres has found many Latino leaders and other mentors in Seymour who have inspired her to get where she is today.

“Iveth Vazquez helped me so much when I was a teenager applying for scholarships and with United Way,” she said. “Ana De Gante inspired me to have empathy for people and meet people where they are at, and Nadia inspires me because of her passion for what she does in the community.”

Caceres said she also is thankful for mentors from United Way and Su Casa who gave her the chance to be a leader and help those in need.

In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors with her son, Eden, and artistic expression.

Caceres hopes to use this new position to build a thriving Latino community and secure new partnerships with the organization.

Caceres is gearing up for two major fundraising events through Su Casa. She is actively seeking sponsors for Fiesta Latina, a citywide festival in Columbus that celebrates Latino culture, and the Diversity Gala, which is a networking opportunity for corporations to get involved.

As the immigrant population continues to grow, Caceres hopes Su Casa will continue to be an organization that provides trust and helps those new to an area feel at home.

For information on how to get involved, visit