Adelante re-focuses its mission
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
One of Toledo’s longest-running agencies that assist the Latino community is re-focusing and re-energizing its operations to better serve individuals and families. Adelante, the Latino Resource Center, hosted an informational breakfast for its partner agencies and community leaders on Wednesday morning, Nov. 30, 2011, at the United Way of Greater Toledo’s downtown headquarters.
Those invited were treated to a traditional Mexican breakfast of chorizo, migas, blanquillos, and tortillas. Local elected officials in attendance included Toledo City Council members Adam Martínez, Mike Craig, and Paula Hicks-Hudson. City and county administrative officials included Children Services director Dean Sparks, Lucas County Job and Family Services (JFS) director Deb Ortiz-Flores, and Toledo Board of Community Relations director Linda Alvarado.
Many of Adelante Inc.’s board members also attended the breakfast, including board president Dan Briones, Herzing University president Greg Guzmán, city of Toledo budget analyst Roberto Martínez, and BGSU professor Rubén Viramontez-Anguiano.
Adelante’s new executive director Mary Price shared a set of three new primary goals for the agency going forward: more engaged partnerships, best practices for programming, and enhanced physical capacity. She called it an “investment of time, talent, and resources.”
“We’re moving forward and the demand is growing,” she said, emphasizing the agency’s service offerings are spreading by word of mouth. “They have a positive experience; they go tell a family member. So Adelante is a huge family that is very connected.”
Ms. Price pointed out the agency recently hosted a “family” Thanksgiving dinner “full of kids, where everyone knew each other.” Adelante also is planning a similar event for Christmas.
Ms. Price told the audience she hoped to increase the agency’s partnerships in pursuit of more comprehensive programming, including more services at satellite locations, and well-structured opportunities for volunteering, service-based learning for young clients, and internship programs.
For example, Adelante already offers off-site tutoring at several schools, including Leverette, East Broadway, Hollingsworth, Woodward, and Waite. The agency also hopes to add Spanish classes to its English as a Second Language (ESL) offerings.
“At the end of the day, we want Adelante to be a hub for education,” she said. “We can have our educators come to our facility and facilitate education.”
The agency also plans to deploy evidence-based, best practices with programs focused on early literacy and community organizing. A six-month pilot project will launch in January, focusing on empowering parents to talk to teachers about difficulties in school with their children, as well as other activities to strengthen families.
Ms. Price also alluded to Adelante’s long-standing need to renovate its aging office building, which has reached its limit to handle agency operations and programming. She talked of enhanced technological capabilities to increase the computer literacy and skills of adults and children alike. She alluded to the hope of offering online and English classes as an example.
“They could come to Adelante and have the opportunity to do that without the barrier of transportation,” she said.
Ms. Price stated such renovations would allow the agency to better meet its physical, program, and service capacity demands.
“We have physically outgrown our space,” she said. “We have to use available space at our partners to facilitate our programs.”
Adelante’s vision statement speaks to those goals: “empowered individuals and families modeling the way for a better quality of life.”
Adelante currently has a dozen staff members, ten full-time and two part-time. Most of the agency’s employees are bilingual. Among its accomplishments, the Adelante executive director stated the agency had served more than 800 people over the past year, 80 percent of them Latino and 77 percent of them under the age of 25. Through a city-sponsored program, Adelante has helped 40 families to achieve home ownership. Another 400 have participated in financial literacy programs.
Alfredo Escalera: Adelante, Inc. success story
Alfredo Escalera, who just graduated from Woodward High School and now attends Owens Community College, told the crowd how participating in Adelante programs has opened his eyes to a better future and opportunity. He took a trip to Washington, D.C. over the summer to participate in a National Council of La Raza (NCLR) leadership conference, met the president and shook his hand.
“I have the video to prove it,” he quipped, which prompted loud laughter from the crowd. “I learned more about how to network, more about politics, leadership skills. That’s really going to benefit me in the future.”
Escalera’s story was poignant because it was meant to demonstrate the agency’s mission on a personal level: “Moving forward...to serve and empower individuals and families in Northwest Ohio through education, prevention, health and other social services.”
Escalera also told the crowd of supporters where he and his family would be at without Adelante and its programs.
“These other students are dropping out, roaming the streets, doing bad,” he said. “If they go to Adelante, I guarantee they’d still be in school, in college, learn about a better work environment, things like that. The reason I want Adelante to stay open is to help my community, help Latinos, help people, help other cultures. The other people fall through the cracks, don’t know what to do and they’re struggling with life. Adelante helps you grow stronger, become a better person.”
Escalera then thanked anyone who had ever donated time or money to help him and others like him. His story drew a hearty round of applause, before he rushed off to take a college exam. Ms. Price explained that Escalera has benefited from the agency’s aims to provide “academic, economic, and life skills literacy.”
Adelante’s adult division includes programs to prevent low birth-weight babies, promote early literacy skills, financial literacy and home ownership, as well as domestic violence prevention.
Ms. Price ended the informational breakfast by asking to meet individually with the agency’s community partners and funding sources.
“See how we both can help this organization better serve the community and expand its capacity,” she said.