MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – She was the CEO of Centro Legal, then the external affairs director for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and done public policy work for the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Now, Luz Maria Frias is adding to her impressive career by working as the President and CEO of YWCA Minneapolis.
Her constant dedication to public service makes Luz Maria Frias a Minnesotan to Meet.
YWCA Minneapolis is celebrating 125 years of service to the Twin Cities area. It’s also celebrating something else, new leadership.
Frias was just hired a few months ago, but she brings decades of public service to the post.
“In public service certainly you have this dedication to give to the community and to be a part of the community and to really connect with people in the community, this (YWCA) is really is an extension of that,” Frias said.
WCCO visited Frias after her first month, fresh on the job.
“Love the work, love the job, and it’s a complete alignment with who I am as a person. The fact that our mission is to empower women and eliminate racism are both values that have been engrained in who I am for as long as I can remember,” Frias said.
Frias said the YWCA has always been ahead of the curve on social and racial justice. In 1945, the YWCA offered the first racially-integrated swimming pool in the Twin Cities.
It’s that kind of dedication to change that’s appealing to Frias.
“We know, our demographics show, that we have an increased number of people of color in our state, and certainly in our region here in Minneapolis. I want to be able to bring those voices together and engage people who may have an earnest curiosity and desire to be a part of the solution but not know how to approach it. So, we really want to be at the forefront of that movement,” Frias said.
Frias said she’s always had the desire to help others.
In her words, she started giving a voice to the voiceless at the age of ten in inner city Chicago. While her parents ran the family business, she served as an interpreter for neighbors who were interviewing for jobs or visiting government offices.
“That instilled in me a real sense for the ability to give back to society to our community,” she said.
She brought that passion for community to Minnesota, while working for Mayor Coleman. She helped start the EMS Academy. This program trains low income youth and women to become either a paramedic or fire fighter.
“In St. Paul, we’ve graduated nearly 200 youth of color. And then last year we were able to implement that in Minneapolis as well. It breaks the cycle of poverty for these families, but also instills in them the ability to succeed in ways they never thought they could,” she said.
She hopes to continue this kind of work at the YWCA, which services thousands of residents at its three locations throughout the Twin Cities.
Inside each you will find a team of people working under Frias dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and servicing thousands of people daily. Services that include after-school programs for girls that empower youth and an early childhood program that prepares the young for kindergarten.
“We have a holistic approach in delivering our services for early childhood. So, if a child special needs regarding vision or speech therapy, that therapy happens on site and allows the working parents to continue to be productive in the workforce without taking time off,” she said.
This is just one of the many things that motivates Frias on a daily basis.
“It really is about leveraging the momentum that we have as an organization and seeing how we can play an even more important role in the 125 to 200 years,” Frias said.
And her past, and experience, will certainly play a role in continuing the success of the YWCA.