Alpha’s Parent Learning Center: A place for education, advocacy, and support during these trying times

August 14, 2020

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Alejandro Espinoza. I was born and raised in Mexico, and moved to the US at the age of 14 to East San Jose. I attended UC Davis and received my undergraduate degree in Chicana/o Studies. From there I went on to receive my Masters and did a fellowship for Alpha: Cindy Avitia, helping undocumented students go to college. When I completed my fellowship, I was offered the opportunity to become the Parent Center Lead, to continue the work of helping parents become better advocates for their children’s education. 

What are the primary functions of the Alpha Parent Learning Center?

The Parent Learning Center provides an array of services that families need, from coordinating a monthly food bank to providing English and Computer classes to help families better communicate and advocate for their children. We also connect families to resources and services ranging from housing to immigration among other areas to meet the needs of families. We do our best to help our families navigate their everyday lives. 

For the past 5 years, we have partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank to host a monthly food bank where any family, not just Alpha families, are welcome to essential food and groceries, in order to tackle the challenge to offer families access to healthy food. There are lots of fast food restaurants and liquor stores in our communities but not many places that offer healthy food options, at an affordable price. 

One of our primary goals is to help families know and understand the importance of a college education and a quality K-12 education. We find different ways to engage with our families through workshops and meetings to ensure they feel supported along the way. 

Does every school have a parent center or is this something unique to Alpha?

In the South Bay, we are the only charter school that has a parent learning center. We are truly blessed and grateful to host a parent center in our school network where we can support adult education and support our families in accessing community resources and services. We value our families’ wellbeing and want to make sure families have direct access to individuals who can connect them to various services. 

How has the learning center been able to help parents through the pandemic?

  1. We created a resource guide for families to have access to different services concerning housing, mental health, domestic violence, food, and others. This has been critical because a lot of families were having issues with housing. 
  2. We contacted our families who were the hardest hit financially to apply for special grants.
  3. Through our fundraising efforts, we were able to support over 100 families with direct grants of $250 or more to help cover expenses due to loss of wages. 
  4. We connected at least 2 families to receive grants from the DRAE program, specifically designed to assist undocumented families.

Why do you do the work that you do?

I grew up in this community, most of my friends in high school were undocumented or low-income, and most of us were students of color so I have an understanding about the struggles that families in the community face. I have always wanted to give back to my community and right now this feels like the right way to do it. Since I still live in the same neighborhood and area where many of the families I work with also live, I recognize that the work I do with families goes beyond the school and impacts their everyday realities. The families are my driving force. Whether they are undocumented, single mothers, low-income workers, they always find ways to give everything to their children. Their energy, their drive – they always find time to be involved, no matter how busy they are. The love and commitment to their children and their education is inspiring.


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