Published : Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 5:44 AM
Elva Sandoval, the newly named executive director of Families Forward Learning Center, is coming home.
Sandoval makes a heart-warming return to the town where she grew up. And she’s working with programs in which she participated in as a child.
“I was born in Glendale and I grew up in South Pasadena,” she said. “After returning from college at UC Berkeley I came back to Los Angeles and moved on to the nonprofit sector in LA. I had been with a charter school as VP development and a situation came up where I went into consulting with nonprofits in Pasadena.”
Sandoval, whose family believed the way to success is education, started consulting with Families Forward and said she fell in love with the organization.
Today as a resident of Altadena, she is putting her heart and soul into the job she’s had since last September.
Families Forward educates both parents and the children on how to fit into the community, offering a range of resources and outreach to other community partners.
Since taking over at the executive director position, Sandoval has come up with a lengthy to-do list for Families Forward. Under her guidance since September, the organization has been focusing on adding programming in the evenings and on the weekends.
The group will make some big efforts this year to procure funding and seek opportunities to implement programs.
“We’re going to start with current donors,” Sandoval said. “There are still many people who don’t know we exist. I want to make sure people know our mission, as our mission states, we prepare families living in poverty to succeed in school and in life.”
Families First empowers parents to be advocates for their children
“We have five classrooms and we have AM and PM sessions. The venue is able to accommodate 116 total children” Sandoval said.
“We have an adult education room in which we provide ESL classes, to parenting classes and an array of workshops, and information on immigration issues,” Sandoval said. “And there are opportunities for the parents to volunteer in the classroom. They’re really learning side-by-side and together to be able to help the parents as the most important teacher. And that’s what we do day in and day out.”
Families Forward teams with others.
The organization is able to provide English as a Second Language training through a partnership with Pasadena City College. Parents are able to drop off their child and during time the child is in the program, they can walk down the hallway and begin their ESL class.
Families Forward is supported through generous donations and government contracts.
“This place is a safe haven where people can come and speak with specialists and talk about what their needs are, whether it’s finding housing, or if a child has speech issues, for example,” Sandoval said. “We administer the parents a stress assessment, and we ask them what they’re finding stressful in their lives so we can get a picture of this. Whatever obstacles they’re encountering we can help.”
Sandoval said it is because of her background that she is in the work she loves.
“It started in terms of growing up, I’m a first-generation American myself,” she said. “I had a very strong foundation, my parents supported me in the pursuit of my education. They believe education is the only way to succeed here. That was the foundation.
But, more than that, Sandoval grew up in a house full of children.
“I grew up with my mom caring for children in our own home, so my love for children started at a very young age,” she said. “While in college I started tutoring. I soon discovered I enjoyed working with children and youth and helping them achieve higher education and I did that early on. As soon as I graduated and I came back to Los Angeles, it wasn’t surprising that I started teaching. But I really wanted to work in the nonprofit sector in working with children and youth and their families.”
Sandoval’s previous executive director position was with an organization called Kids In Sports.
Another reason Sandoval is so passionate about her work is another aspect of her background.
“Not only did I grow up in the area but I actually went to Head Start in Pasadena,” she said. “My family was involved with the local programs and I benefited from that. Looking back on that, that’s why this is a good fit for me. Because I benefited from the programs in Pasadena, I went into this line of work. I feel at home here. It’s my way of giving back.”
The three areas Sandoval and her team of staff and volunteers want to accomplish are:
– Reaching out to those families not enrolled in the program through opportunities like after-school tutoring and expanding on opportunities with families that are enrolled.
– Engaging our philanthropic community, through events and major gift program to be implemented
– Partnering with other service providers in the community.
Sandoval said despite the political climate and challenging times, she is upbeat.
“I see hope, there is a lot of community support,” Sandoval said. “Oftentimes our families feel they’re alone but as soon as they get involved with the community one way or another through us they meet other parents and other families in the same situation. As soon as they become involved, they instantly find support. Especially in our City. There’s hope in numbers.”
To find out more about Families Forward, please visit http://www.familiesforwardlc.org/