Now More Than Ever, We Must Unite
Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States 68 days ago, we have seen many changes; but we have also seen the power that many voices have when they join together. These changes have motivated people of all ethnicities, ages, and genders to be informed about the operations of our government, so they can stand up for their beliefs. What is even greater, is the positive ripple effect we have seen within our communities – as older generations educate and empower younger generations, so that one day they may also take a stand for their beliefs.
Last week, the White House released its “skinny budget,” a simplified version or “blueprint” of the President’s proposed federal budget plan for the 2018 fiscal year. This blueprint included cuts to important entities like education, transportation, housing, and community programming; relocating the funding to increase the U.S. defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security budgets.
Proposed cuts will defund the U.S. Education Department by 13.5% by cutting $9.2 billion in public education funding for in- and after-school programs. This will cause teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, reductions in engaging courses and extracurricular activities, and less support for students struggling to afford college. It also hurts career and technical education programs that prepare students for good-paying jobs in trade fields (auto-mechanics, beauticians, computer programmers, etc.) – which in turn hurts future growth.
If approved, this budget will also completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts that supports community programs with an integral arts curriculum. By incorporating arts into our Preschool, Afterschool, and Youth Programs students have become more engaged in their lessons and, as they get older, they feel confident & comfortable sharing their ideas with the community.
Whether a child is in high school or preschool, it is an important time as ever to provide them with the emotional and academic support they need to become valuable members of society. Organizations like ours work with parents, guardians, teachers, and community leaders to do this because “It takes a Villa!” If we want to make a difference now and in the future, we must show our children that there is power in community!
We’ve seen this happen through the creation of our preschool, “founded in community,” as our Senior Program Director, Rafael Medina put it; going on to describe the “DNA” of our preschool as “all around community and community building.” Because of educational funding, we have been able to help hundreds of parents, like Jennifer Fields, find an affordable program that makes them feel at ease about their child’s early education, “I’ve had two children enrolled in IBA’s preschool and it has been a success for both of them – my children were taught Spanish, well fed, and cared for by the teachers as if they were their own.”
We’ve seen the impact afterschool and summer learning programs have on elementary aged children through our own programming that works with 1st and 2nd grade English Language Learners. In 2016, not only did we see improvements in their academic skills but also their problem solving, self-regulation, and relationships with adults increased by more than 40 percent.
And we’ve seen how extracurriculars like our Youth Development Program (YDP) can positively affect disadvantaged teens, like Cristalle de Jesus, by giving them community building jobs as Peer Leaders. De Jesus explained, “My knowledge has expanded so much here that I don’t think I would have had another opportunity like this one.” She described how working as a Peer Leader has helped her to grow, “I love hearing about new perspectives, new stories, and what other people go through… it makes me a better person because I can put myself in their shoes and I can better understand.”
De Jesus said that the lessons she has learned through her position at IBA give her the confidence to speak out, so she has gone on to share her ideas with friends, family, and strangers, through collective visual artworks, volunteering, and – her personal favorite – poetry.
With the confrontational political environment stirring around us, we must make sure that we are supporting these younger generations to be a positive change in the world. Just as our CEO, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado said in December, “We have to remain vigilant… so we are ready to fight back to protect our community.”
By engaging our children with their peers & adults, encouraging problem-solving & creative thinking, and providing them with emotional & educational support, we can make them into good listeners as well as good leaders.
To ensure that our children – the future of this country – feel comfortable and confident in the power of our community voice please support programs like ours that are threatened by the new budget proposal. Please, take the time to contact your representatives to protect federal funding for these programs by clicking here.