Lisette Sosa-Dickson is the voice of the Spanish-speaking elderly community.
As the Executive Director of Raices (which means “roots” in Spanish), she oversees the programming, financial operations, and administration of seven senior centers, a case assistance division, and a licensed outpatient mental health clinic.
Growing up, her mother, Catalina Sosa, taught young Lisette that she could do anything she set her mind to do. When Sosa-Dickson was appointed executive director in 2013, she became the first female executive in the organization’s history. This powerful message of reaching for the stars is something she now shares with her own children, ages 8 and 7. It’s why she sometimes brings them to her workplace.
“It’s important for our children to see women in leadership roles as part of the norm,” she says. “It’s great for my daughter to witness firsthand how you can be a mom, wife, and a CEO.”
The Sunset Park native, who now lives in Brooklyn Heights, says she has always had a passion for improving the lives of those within the community. The seven senior centers under her charge do that by offering daily meals, socialization, and case assistance services that sort through the red tape so often associated with applying for any type of benefits.
One of her key accomplishments was the development of a “one-stop shop” service modality.
“This model is a valuable benefit to all clients because they can receive their nutritional, educational, recreational, case assistance, psychological and psychiatric needs under one roof,” says the Woman of Distinction. “This approach added a layer of accessibility and service expeditiousness not provided by larger non-community based providers.”
Sosa-Dickson’s interest in working with older adults began when she served as program director for Meals on Wheels in East New York. From there, she moved on to social work. It can be a very rewarding experience to help transform someone’s life, and Sosa-Dickson remembers meeting one older woman at the workplace some 14 years ago who suffered from depression so severe, she was suicidal. Sosa-Dickson insisted on bringing her to a senior center, and introduced her to other participants. Gradually, the woman began to socialize with others, participating in games and group events. Sosa-Dickson chuckles when she recalls that the woman blossomed so much, “She became the mayor of the center!”
Among the recognition Sosa-Dickson has received includes the “Community Partner Award” from Visions, a service for the blind and visually impaired; and a citation from the office of the Brooklyn Borough President for her outstanding contributions as a senior service provider. She earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter College, with a concentration in geriatrics, and completed the Hispanic Leadership Institute Emerging Leaders Program at Baruch College.
Her colleague, Raquel Ortiz-Terron, Clinical Director of Raices says, “Lisette is a leader that provides us with an environment where we cultivate our gifts and talents. She is a woman of wisdom, compassion, and integrity.”
Occupation: Executive director.
Company: Spanish Speaking Elderly Council, Raices.
Claim to fame: Seeing that the needs of the Spanish-speaking elderly community are met.
Favorite Brooklyn Place and why: Brooklyn Bridge Park because there’s always lots of fun stuff to do there.
Woman you admire and why: My mom, Catalina Sosa, is the embodiment of a strong, wise, loving, supportive, hilarious, resilient woman, wife, mom, and grandmother. She has always stood by my side as my biggest cheerleader.
Motto: “Lead with vision. Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18.