Every year a series of awards are bestowed in the city of Omaha to young professionals who excel thanks to their leadership, passion, and commitment to the community. They are the Jaycees, and today the name of Emiliano Lerda, a Latino individual who has worked hard to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants, and Executive Director of Justice For Our Neighbors.

For over 84 years, the Jaycees have honored people between 21 and 40 years of age who have done great work to improve the Omaha community through altruistic activities, along with having an outstanding professional career.

For Emiliano, receiving the call that announced he was up for the award was a surprise. After that, a series of review processes took place, including a personal interview before a panel of nine judges,and he finally ended up as part of the list of ten winners.

Thanks to his professional career, it wasn’t a surprise for us to learn that Lerda had managed to complete the review processes. We also knew about his warm personality and his commitment to social service, which is why it is easy to understand his success, both professionally and in the community.

“Back in 2011 I began working with Justice for Our Neighbors, back when there were only three of us on staff,” said Lerda, who had previously worked at the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

With a drive to make a difference at his new job, Emiliano faced several months of uncertainty due to the possibility of the organization having to close its doors because they were not strong at an organizational level.

However, his goal was set, and his eagerness to serve others helped him to steady the course.

“I was new in the Omaha community, and I didn’t have the trust of foundations. However, little by little time allowed me to earn it thanks to the help of some very capable people I got to meet and who became blessings by becoming part of the Justice For Our Neighbors team,” he said.

Setting out to build an organization with a social and community impact, above sustainability, he and his team began to work on over 250 cases each year. The team today includes 19 people who worked on over 2,600 cases in 2016.

According to Emiliano, “we began to grow when the organizations interested in supporting us evaluated the work we were doing, as well as the needs of the community. We currently provide our services to the entire State of Nebraska and the Southeast of Iowa, and we know that our value is not measured by the number of cases we have but by the moral responsibility we have to help all undocumented immigrants.

This was part of what the executives for the Jaycees saw in Emiliano Lerda. They’re known as the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce thanks to their affiliation with the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce and with Junior Chamber International.

We must highlight that this is the oldest organization of young professionals in the Omaha metro area, with a focus on creating leaders since 1921. It currently has over 100 members from Douglas County, Sarpy County, and the surrounding counties.

They open a path towards being able to connect with professionals from all over the world since they have Chapters in over 175 countries in a wide range of professional fields of expertise.

Lerda has a Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences, as well as having completed Law school and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Law. He’s a loving husband and father who likes to enjoy outdoor activities, particularly marathons.

A humble man who stands by his decisions and technical analysis, he loves social service and is committed to his profession from the bottom of his Latino hearth. Today Emiliano does not settle and continues to work to take Justice For Our Neighbors to the next level.

Even more so after receiving the aforementioned award, because, as he said: “Receiving this award has been different from the awards given to us as an organization as it is now awarded directly to me as a person, which leaves me the big responsibility of knowing that the expectations for my work are now higher.”

Emiliano humbly explains his professional success: “I’m only the result of all the people who at some point in my life decided to help me.”

He’s currently focusing on a new strategic plan for Justice For Our Neighbors, starting with some pilot support programs.

“We will continue to be an organization that provides legal services on immigration, but we believe that the legal immigration help we provide can also be extended to other areas such as family, work, and health so that we can do a better job. And this is what we will set out to do over the next three years,” he stated.

Emiliano Lerda will continue to work hard, as he said in his message: “As immigrants, we must not forget about the privilege of being in this country where we can provide our children with better opportunities for success. I believe that we can all do something to help others because at some point we were the ones receiving someone else’s help. I believe that the more you give, the more life is good to you. For now, every day I continue to grow, challenging myself both personally and professionally, searching for the opportunity to do something that can have a positive impact on my community.”
Bernardo Montoya

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