Nonprofit CIELO Looks to Connect With and Support Centralia’s Latino Community


CIELO, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the needs of Latino communities in Lewis, Thurston and Mason counties, has put out a call for community partners in the city of Centralia to help its staff connect with members of the local Latino community.

CIELO, an acronym that in Spanish stands for Comprehensive Latino Educational Center of Olympia (Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia), currently provides programs for crime victims, including legal assistance and mental health services, as well as educational support for youth and adults, such as tutoring help for students in school subjects and assistance for parents struggling to navigate the school system and learn English.

And their services are always changing to adapt to changing needs of the communities they serve.

“We are a by-and-for organization and we believe in the model we use to serve our community,” said Executive Director Julio Rios in a presentation to the Centralia City Council on April 12. “We believe in cultural humility … We don’t assume anything from any individual from any walk of life. We want to get to know each individual and know what are their needs, and this is how CIELO became something that came out of the community.”

The nonprofit creates new programs based on needs disclosed by community members, Rios said, and those programs adapt to the community’s changing needs. The pandemic, for example, led CIELO to establish a partnership with Lewis County Public Health and Social Services so that it could connect people with information about COVID-19. CIELO also shifted its one-on-one tutoring program to Zoom to help students struggling with virtual learning. While Rios reported that CIELO saw a drop in usage for that service at the start of the pandemic in March, Rios said that at the end of 2020, the nonprofit recorded a 150% increase in use of tutoring services from the year before.

“The thing about CIELO is it’s more than just a resource center — it’s a community center for many of the individuals that we serve and our mission is to … promote community self-sufficiency and leadership to Latinos in the South Puget Sound,” said Mary Lam, CIELO’s development director

The nonprofit’s ultimate goal is to promote equity, inclusion and justice for members of local Latino communities, said Lam.

One of the things that makes CIELO unique, Rios said, is that every person can access services in their own language — be it English, Spanish or a native indigenous language.

CIELO began in 1996 with “eight strong Latinas who knew that services needed to be provided  to the ever-growing latino population,” Lam said.

Now, 25 years after it began, CIELO is hiring people who took part in its educational-support programs and went on to graduate college.

“We are so proud of the community because we didn’t solve any problems, we just heard the community and they had the solutions and they’re part of it,” Rios said.

The nonprofit began outreach efforts in Chehalis last year, and is now looking to expand those efforts into Centralia.

“We want to start having those meaningful conversations with the community so something can start happening in Centralia,” Rios said. “We’re looking for partners that want to join us in this venture and maybe reach out to the community and start up that process.”

To start, CIELO has partnered with Cascade Health to host a virtual family workshop for Latino families at 6:30 p.m. on April 30. More information will be posted on CIELO’s Facebook page,

Anyone interested in partnering with CIELO is encouraged to reach out to Lam at or Rios at More information on CIELO is available online at