A project initiated by Adelante Youth Alliance (AYA) and funded in part by the Pasadena Community Foundation has been providing assistance over the past few months to underserved and vulnerable residents who were either unaware of available resources and how to access them, or were too embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.
The project, called Achieving Access Together, was primarily aimed at serving families in northwest Pasadena, particularly the Latinx community in the neighborhood surrounding Madison Elementary School.
Many of the residents in the area are essential workers who were impacted particularly hard with high COVID-19 infection rates, school closures, lack of childcare, financial and food insecurity, and inadequate educational and technical support.
These issues have compromised students’ chance for success in school, so AYA went out to secure desperately needed essential goods and services, as well as tutoring and mental health support.
AYA started by identifying 20 households with 25 families to participate in the project, for a total of 100 neighborhood residents in need of help. Aside from the PCF, AYA also sought the help of the Pasadena Public Health Department, Pasadena City College’s Hixon Teacher Prep Program, and numerous nearby food pantries, churches, and nonprofit organizations to help in the project.
“AYA views our approach to positive youth development as multidimensional, one that must be inclusive of physical, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational, and financial elements,” said AYA Executive Director Stella Murga. “To serve our families in these various ways, we partner with many community-based organizations and government agencies to equip ourselves with the tools needed to serve and empower the individuals and families we support.”
In fall 2020, a PCF grant funded the purchase of $2,000 worth of gift cards for groceries, as well as mobile hotspots and data plans for each household to improve internet access and online learning. The funds also covered the direct services provided by AYA staff for three months, consisting of academic assistance and after-school tutoring for 60 students in grades 5 through 12, legal and rental assistance, and healthcare and mental health services.
AYA also conducted weekly online “Life Sessions” for both parents and students, which focused on social-emotional learning.
Over the past six months, Achieving Access Together has helped improve student grades, with 75 percent of the 65 students improving their grades by one grade level, and 25 percent improving their grades by two grade levels as of March 2021.
All of the students reported being more motivated to succeed personally and academically. Participants in the social-emotional learning sessions reported they have become more engaged and confident in their abilities to tackle challenges, and that their personal decision-making skills and self-image have improved.
“Adelante Youth Alliance is grateful to the Pasadena Community Foundation for its confidence to provide quality services to Pasadena residents most in need,” Murga said. “The support of philanthropic foundations like PCF is vital to the work we do. Together, we have enriched the lives of young people and their families striving to achieve their full potential and become contributing members and leaders of their communities.”
The project will continue to expand and will soon include additional internet and technical support to connect more families with healthcare and vaccination information, AYA said.