For underserved and vulnerable Pasadena communities, issues of access have compounded the hardships of the year-long pandemic. In the fall of 2020, as part of its COVID-19 Relief Response, Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF) helped fund the Achieving Access Together Project, created by Adelante Youth Alliance (AYA). The Project sought to direct resources and services to families in northwest Pasadena that were either unaware of available resources and how to access them, or were afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. AYA recently shared with PCF how the project has had measurable impact for these families during the last six months.
AYA primarily serves the Latinx community in the neighborhood surrounding Madison Elementary School. Many in this area are essential workers who were impacted particularly hard with high infection rates, school closures, lack of childcare, financial and food insecurity, and inadequate educational and technical support – all issues that compromise students’ school success. AYA leveraged its long, respected history to bring together partners that could assist in the formation and operation of the Project and secure desperately needed essential goods and services, tutoring, and mental health support.
AYA staff identified 20 households with 25 families to participate in the project, for a total of 100 neighborhood residents in need of help. Partners included PCF, Pasadena Public Health Department, PCC’s Hixon Teacher Prep Program, and numerous nearby food pantries, churches, and nonprofit organizations. “AYA views our approach to positive youth development as multi-dimensional, one that must be inclusive of physical, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational, and financial elements,” says 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.”
PCF’s grant funded the purchase of $2,000 in gift cards for groceries , as well as mobile hotspots and data plans for each household to improve Internet access and online learning. It also covered the direct services conducted for three months by AYA staff, helping make the connections for families in need of basic services. In whole, AYA’s project also provided academic assistance and afterschool tutoring for 60 students in grades 5 through 12, legal and rental assistance, and healthcare and mental health services. Another powerful aspect of the project has been the weekly online “Life Sessions” for both parents and students, which focuses on Social-Emotional Learning.
Achieving Access Together has had measurable impact. As of March 2021, 75% of the 65 students improved their grades by one grade level, and 25% improved their grades by two grade levels. 100% of the students reported more motivation to succeed personally and academically. Moreover, the Social-Emotional Learning participants reported that they were more engaged and confident in their abilities to tackle their challenges, noting especially that their personal decision-making skills and self-image had improved.
The partnerships that were created for the Project have been strengthened and continue to expand. Ms. Murga reports that the project will soon include additional Internet and technical support and will further connect families with healthcare and vaccinations. She says, “Adelante Youth Alliance is grateful to the Pasadena Community Foundation for its confidence to provide quality services to Pasadena residents most in need. 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.”