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How an Obama leader is making a difference in a Texas immigrant community

ethany Rivera Molinar, a Latina woman with a medium skin tone, holds a closed-lipped smile. She stands outdoors on a sunny day. She has long brown hair and clear glasses.

Bethany Rivera Molinar knows firsthand how powerful community collaboration is. She says her life has been shaped by public service, and that’s why she continues to uplift and invest in her community. 

Bethany is a 2023 United States Obama Leader and the executive director of Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach (Opens in a new tab), a faith-based nonprofit and community development organization based in El Paso, Texas. The organization works holistically with community members to empower youth, support families, equip leaders, and strengthen the Rio Grande neighborhood, a largely immigrant community. 

She says the key to its success is “walking with our neighbors.” 

“My team and I work from an asset-based community development lens, which means that we seek to understand the resources present in the community, including the resources and strengths of the individuals as well as the resources available in the physical spaces in our community,” she explained. “Ciudad Nueva is in the Rio Grande neighborhood, a predominantly immigrant community in El Paso. Our neighborhood is full of incredible people who work hard, but oftentimes struggle to make ends meet. At Ciudad Nueva we walk with our neighbors and cultivate a space where resources are identified, connections are made, and neighbors are able to maximize their resources to help themselves and our community thrive.” 

Bethany Rivera Molinar, presents a workshop in front of eight others. Their backs are to the camera as they sit around a table. Bethany stands in front of a wall easel pad. She is wearing a Ciudad Nueva shirt and glasses.

Bethany Rivera Molinar leads a city-wide neighborhood association summit. Photo credit: Daisy Guzman

Bethany credits her parents with inspiring her to serve others.

“My parents were school bus drivers who did the best they could with what they had. They loved deeply and took their faith seriously,” She reflected. “My father was a minister to outlaw bikers and my mother would often volunteer at the elderly home and in church. They showed me that to love God means to love your neighbor.” 

Bethany has been with Ciudad Nueva for ten years, in various roles, but she says serving as executive director has deepened her impact in the community. 

“The work is beautiful but hard. I go home tired, but when I get the chance to sit with my neighbors and hear from them the ways they feel seen, valued, and engaged through the work of Ciudad Nueva, I feel affirmed that I am doing what I am supposed to do,” she reflected.“There are many tiny moments throughout the work where it feels like the world is being made right, and it is exciting that Ciudad Nueva gets to be a part of that!”

There are many tiny moments throughout the work where it feels like the world is being made right, and it is exciting that Ciudad Nueva gets to be a part of that!”

Bethany Rivera Molinar, 2023 United States Obama Leader

For nearly two decades, Ciudad Nueva has created an ecosystem of community for the people and by the people. 

“We are active members of the Christian Community Development Association, a network of Christians committed to seeing people and communities experience God's shalom,” she shared.

The organization strengthens the neighborhood by providing youth empowerment programs, job and skills training, economic and mental health services, business incubator programs, a community store, and food co-op. The organization even hires community members to connect neighbors with resources and employment opportunities. 

She says being a part of the Leaders USA program has inspired her to dig deeper. She credits the program for equipping her with the tools and network to expand her leadership skills.

“I’m really glad to be a part of the program. It’s a holistic way of looking at leadership development. Sometimes in community work, you can lose yourself and forget that healing is for you too. This space gives me a chance to explore that. It couples introspection, self-care, and our work. It's been incredible for me to connect and learn from like minded leaders from all over the country.” 

Looking ahead, Bethany says she will continue to walk with her neighbors, partnering with them in helping make things right in the world and encourages everyone to join in.

“I want everyone to know that they are wholly made in the image of God. From babies to elders, my hope is that they would see the gifts and skills inside of them and actively engage in the work of making this world a better place.”


Donate to the Barack Obama Foundation to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation to change their world.

The Barack Obama Foundation is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN 46-4950751).

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