Centro Cultural, Building Community
By Jowelle Mizero
Founded in 1972 by a group of migrant workers, Centro Cultural seeks to empower the Latino community by providing resources for careers and education to children, teens, and adults. Currently, Centro serves 150 students in Washington County per year through its summer, robotics, and STEAM programs. In addition, Centro partners with Meals on Wheels to provide nutrition classes for senior citizens and works with Goodwill to provide ESL classes for both youth and adults.
Recognizing that educational opportunities are often expensive, Centro seeks to provide its youth programs at a low cost to allow families to participate. One of Centro’s goals is to provide educational resources that will allow underrepresented groups to enter the STEM field. Centro offers a STEAM program that gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in science and technology with a focus on independent learning and innovation.
Lindsay Garcia is passionate about education and supporting youth in their efforts to learn and grow both academically and as people. After obtaining a B.A. in Chemistry and an M.A. in Education, Lindsay taught high school chemistry in Los Angeles, California before joining Centro Cultural in 2017. Starting off as a citizenship instructor, Lindsay grew within Centro Cultural and became the program manager organizing the summer STEAM program. Currently, she serves as the director of Centro’s education department which she helped to develop.
After being in the education system and working in the classroom, Lindsay understands the limitations that students face and hopes to build positive relationships with students in order for them to overcome obstacles. “I know that a lot of kids need an adult to talk to them, someone that they can confide in,” Lindsay says.
“We’re trying to get the kids out of the whole, ‘here’s the procedure, follow the procedure as it is’ mentality. We’re trying to make them more innovative, to create their own things instead of us holding their hands and telling them what to do,” Lindsay explains. Through STEAM, students are encouraged to problem-solve independently and to become active in the learning process. The program also connects science and technology with art and students work on projects such as building a dog house.
Moving forward, Centro Cultural is focused on growing and serving even more people. In the last year, Centro opened a sister office, Prosperidad, through a partnership with the city of Hillsboro to help low-income and unemployed people access job training to find living wage jobs. In addition, Centro recently received a grant to purchase a van that would help members in the community in need of transportation to Centro’s classes and activities.
One challenge that Centro is facing is the need for space to allow for further growth. Their small office space has made it difficult for it to be used by the community. They are exploring options for expansion.
Lindsay describes the impact of Centro’s youth programs and tells of a mother in the community who migrated to the U.S. from Mexico to work and support her children. Three years ago, she was able to bring her children to the U.S. After finding out about Centro Cultural, she brought her oldest son to learn English. Her son later joined the Lego robotics club. “Within three years, he’s grown so much, not just in his English abilities. He’s opened up more and become more comfortable being at Centro. His involvement in Lego robotics really helped him gain more confidence,” Lindsay says.
Seeing the impact of their programs, Centro Cultural hopes to gain more funding to continue growing and to reach more members of the community.
“We’re truly here to help the community,” Lindsay says. “Our hearts are really in it. We’re very invested in what we do.”