YWCA Central Carolinas recognized Natalie Marles with the Emerging Leader Award during its Woman of Achievement Awards event Oct. 17 for her work ensuring marginalized people have access to health care, knowledge and justice.
The annual awards event honors three generations of women who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
An immigrant from Bogotá, Colombia, Marles is committed to social justice, merging her work life as a paralegal-advocate for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and personal life working for the needs of the Hispanic and Latinx community with the goal of fostering inclusion within the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.
Marles helps low-income individuals get their criminal records expunged through the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project, which focuses on improving economic mobility, stable housing and entrepreneurship in targeted communities in the Charlotte area. Criminal record expungements expand economic mobility by clearing misdemeanor offenses that often prevent individuals from pursuing employment and housing opportunities.
Through the Advocacy Center’s Know your Rights and Power of Attorney community workshops Marles has helped immigrants understand their constitutional rights and worked to ensure these rights are upheld. She has become a trusted face in the immigrant community through her professional and personal work.
Marles joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in 2016 as a health insurance navigator helping individuals and families, including immigrants and Spanish speaking residents, understand their health coverage options to enroll in plans that best fit their individual needs under the Affordable Care Act.
After finding limited health services for the Hispanic community in Cabarrus County, Marles established a nonprofit organization called El Puente Hispano (the Hispanic bridge) with other community leaders in 2017 to provide programs that provide support and improve physical and mental health for the Hispanic community in the Charlotte area.
Marles began her local volunteerism serving as a triage nurse and health promoter for Bethesda Health Center after moving to the area from Miami in 2009. She also spent two years volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem, giving children impacted by abuse, neglect and abandonment a voice in Cabarrus County.
Marles is a member of the Enlace Charlotte, formerly The Latin American Council, board of directors. She is also part of the Mecklenburg County Latino civic engagement and last year helped launch the campaign “Latino tu voto cuenta” (Latino your vote counts) encouraging people to understand the importance of civic engagement and participation in the democratic process.