LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Every May, we see the hard work of the people behind the scenes of Churchill Downs come to fruition during the Kentucky Derby.
Hot walkers, exercise riders and groomers routinely wake up and start working before the sun rises to get horses ready to race.
Many of the workers are not native to the U.S., like Sergio, an assistant trainer. He is from Guatemala and moved to Louisville in 2011 to work at Churchill Downs.
He worked with animals at home, but never race horses.
“When I was probably seven years old, I had my horse and I started to love to care for the animals,” Sergio said.
He knew working here could help his family back in Guatemala. A lot of his colleagues are in similar positions.
“Many of the people working at the racetrack are from Central America, Mexico, South America,” Backside Learning Center Director of Programs Lauren DeGeorge said.
Moving far away from home and oftentimes leaving family can be a difficult venture, but the nonprofit Backside Learning Center is making sure these workers have everything they need to succeed.
“We’re helping connect people who are unfamiliar with some of the systems here in the United States and specifically some of the resources available to them in Louisville,” DeGeorge said.
The organization started in 2004 and provides educational opportunities and resources to the backside community. They not only support the workers, but their families and children as well.
“That’s when I feel like you can see growth and you can see dreams being realized,” DeGeorge said.
One of the services they offer is English classes.
When Sergio first moved here, he knew no English. But ten years later, he has learned the language, and risen in the ranks to become an assistant trainer.
“I like to see the horses clean and I like to put the bridles on,” Sergio said. “It’s something special for us.”
DeGeorge said even though the workers and their families are benefitting from the services, she feels like she is the real beneficiary because she gets to learn from the backside community.
For more information on the Backside Learning Center, click here.