Ten-year-old Evelyn always liked school. She’s been attending Castle Park Elementary since kindergarten and now her younger sister — 5-year-old Fernanda — is following in her footsteps. But something has changed for these sisters and their parents, both at school and at home.
“I understand better,” Evelyn said. “We have so many new activities. I do math better. It’s my favorite. And I learned about college and gardening too.”
Castle Park Elementary is one of five schools in Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (CVPromise), a federally funded program that supports academic excellence and college-bound aspirations in the Castle Park neighborhood of Chula Vista.
The comprehensive plan brings together a collaboration of partners, 28 local government agencies, health providers, non- profit organizations and businesses that provid matching funds and help develop a holistic approach focusing on family, education, health and community to meet the neighborhood’s needs and goals.
“I would volunteer before but it’s hard when you don’t speak English,” Gladys Ayon, Eveyln’s mother, said. “But now I’m at school a lot. I help in the classroom, volunteer in the garden with my girls and attend more parent meetings.”
A community garden, afterschool academic support, a parent center and an on-site series of parenting classes are among the new additions to Castle Park Elementary due to CVPromise.
Ayon, a homemaker, said that school, academics and what she as a parent needs to provide is very different than when she attended school in Mexico.
Through Universidad de Padres parenting workshops, Ayon is learning new ways in which both she and her husband can support academics at home.
Recently, with the support of CVPromise, Ayon enrolled in English classes.
“I have to take care of my daughters. And English classes seemed to always be at night,” Ayon said. “But Promises helped me find something that would work,” Ayon said.
The on-campus parent center is run by CVPromise “promotoras,” bilingual trained parents from the neighborhood who serve as an important linkage between programs and the Castle Park community. It provides parents a place to ask questions and learn about resources and programs available to the whole family.
“Just being invited into the school is key,” promatora Cyndi Gonzalaz said.
“We see parents daily on campus and even run into them at the grocery store. We’re their neighbors. We’re able to relate and they trust us and open up a little bit more. So we can pair the family to the right program and also get feedback to further help.”
From the beginning, parents and residents were invited to be part of the planning and efforts of CVPromise. About a hundred community members attend monthly CVPromise parent and resident advisory meetings to receive updates, discuss current CVPromise programs and efforts, and provide CVPromise staff and partners with feedback.
“There’s a new confidence,” Gonzalez said. “And the word is spreading.”
For Ayon and her family, conversations at home about school and the future have also changed. Ayon said her daughters will be going to college. Eveyln wants to be a plastic surgeon.
Recently, Evelyn let her parents know that she no longer wants a quinceañera, a traditional Mexican coming of age celebration, but would rather have them start saving up for college.
“A party is just for a bit and money goes fast,” Evelyn said. “Education is for always. We can do it.”
For more information visit www.CVPromise.org or call (619) 420-3620.
Pinuelas-Morineau is a community engagement specialistwith Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood.