By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR
Today we’re kicking off a monthly series to highlight the outstanding work of the organizations that compose the NCLR Affiliate Network. The countrywide network consists of nearly 300 community-based organizations that offer a diverse array of services and programs including charter schools, after-school programs, homeownership counseling, and health centers, just to name a few. Together, the network reaches millions of Latinos. We’re proud to call these organizations Affiliates, and through our monthly Affiliate Spotlight we hope to share with you their success stories. Our first Affiliate Spotlight is on the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families.
Since its founding in 1982, the New York City–based Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF) has improved the lives of Latinos citywide through a combination of education and advocacy. CHCF is a New York powerhouse, and that’s not just because it’s an NCLR Affiliate. Its list of accolades is long and truly reflects the staff’s commitment to its mission of working directly with young people and their families. Yet these honors alone do not showcase the breadth of the organization’s work. CHCF’s direct service programs in youth development, early care, and education inform its advocacy and policy initiatives. It’s an approach that has proven effective for the organization and beneficial for Latinos in New York City.
A quick look at the scope of CHCF’s work underscores the premium placed on community engagement. CHCF runs in-school programs in the Bronx and Brooklyn that consist of two after-school programs, a teen pregnancy prevention program in a middle school and a campus of high schools, and two dropout prevention programs. The CHCF policy department works in tandem with the programs component to advance issues in bilingual education and the impact of the Common Core State Standards on English language learners. Additionally, CHCF provides civic education courses for aspiring citizens and navigates them through the process. Finally, the organization also provides technical assistance and support to daycare providers across the city.
It is a busy organization, to be sure, but for Danielle Guindo, who has been with CHCF since 1999, the work is well worth the effort. The school programs are particularly noteworthy. “When people know us, they don’t just know about us—they’re connected with us,” she says. “We’re often the go-to people when a school needs to reach parents because we know how to bring them in.”
When asked what it is about CHCF that makes parents feel so comfortable, often more so than with school administrators, Guindo says it has to do with their accessibility: “We have a home base in the school, whether it’s an office or a classroom. It’s a place they can call home, where they feel comfortable. We hug and kiss; we speak their language, figuratively and literally.”
Part of their strategy includes constant contact with parents, especially with positive news to share. In the dropout prevention program, for example, they call parents to let them know that their kids are coming to school every day.
Guindo explains, “Parents will get a call from us and we’ll just let them know that ‘Jose has been coming to school every day and we’re going to make sure he continues. We’re giving him a star on his passport.’ Not just a call saying, ‘Hey, we’re looking for him, do you know where he is?’” Doing this makes parents feel like they truly are partners with CHCF, which Guindo stresses they absolutely are. “There’s no way that we could do what we do with our kids without maximizing the benefits of having parents involved as well,” she says.
It’s this type of engagement that has also earned CHCF recognition from the New York City Department of Education. It has developed meaningful relationships with department administrators at many levels because it has perfected what it means to be a true partner in a school. It is a model the city has elevated as one that other groups should aspire to.
CHCF is also expanding its work. The group was just awarded funding to implement a new civic engagement initiative called the Latina Advocacy Project. The ambitious program will bring together 20 young women in one of CHCF’s high school sites to participate in a year-long course on civic engagement and advocacy. Its aim is also to help them recognize, understand, and identify issues related to sexual health and reproductive justice. Guindo says that CHCF is particularly excited about this new project because, as she puts it, it really captures who CHCF is.
“We are working directly with young people, which is one of our strengths, but we’re also bringing in the idea that to be an effective advocate, you need to learn some basics,” said Guindo. “You need to learn that being part of your school, your community, your family, and the city means that you have a voice and that you have to speak up. These are the ways you can.”
At NCLR, we’re certainly looking forward to seeing CHCF implement this vital program, especially as Latinos assume even more electoral clout.
As for what the future holds for CHCF, Guindo is positive about new growth, but she’s also focused on sustaining the vibrancy of their current portfolio.
“I’d like to see that what we’ve been able to accomplish up to this point—being effective school partners, being high-quality providers of professional development for early educators, and using what we’re learning on the ground to inform policy—is consistent, that we’re able to keep that up and amplify that,” said Guindo. “Ten years from now, I want to see that there will never be a question of strength or the efficacy of our organization.”