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Striving for change within the Latin community

Written by Telescope Staff Writer Johnathan Sarabia

According to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts, 35 percent of the population in Oceanside is Hispanic or Latino, 50 percent  in Vista, 39 percent in San Marcos and 51 percent in Escondido.The Latin community is a large percentage of the population in San Diego North County.

Although the Latino population is the majority of the population in North County, there is still a lack of resources available for this community.

The National Latino Center (NLRC) is based at California State University San Marcos and began in 1998. Their goal is “to promote scientific and applied research, training, and the exchange of information that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of rapidly growing U.S. Latino population.”

Alonzo Martinez, has been an intern for 5 years uplifting the Hispanic community to progress and continue to take advantage of resources that allow them to get an education.

“One of the biggest challenges this community faces, is the lack adequate and access to resources.” He stated.

Universidad Popular is a community resource center and education initiative that promotes civic participation within the Latin community.

The center was founded by Arcela Nunez-Alavarez, NLRC Director for over 15 years and continues to create bridges of progression within the Latin Community. The majority of the research is done through the NLRC, programs that consist of the latin community engagement that are held at Universidad Popular.

It is opened Monday through Friday 2pm to 6pm. The volunteers are seen as mentors providing any support whether its academic, social, or physical. It is reflected on children’s reactions and behaviors the influence these mentors and volunteers have in them.

“The community here in North County, is predominantly heavy on immigrant communities. Immigrant children faces challenge, having to learn a new language and a new school system.” said Alonzo Martinez

Through data collection and comparison, YEP has shown to have a positive influence on minority communities. The data collected by different universities concluded that, “The YEP graduation rate exceeded the comparison group rate by 40%.”

It is stated that , these “activities help keep at-risk youth off the streets when school is not in session, and provide the opportunity to deliver anti-violence programming to reduce violent behavior and promote impulse control.”


It was also concluded that, “arrest rates were over five times higher in non-YEP local students than in the YEP cohort.” as stated from the YEP program.


There is a disadvantage for latin parents to become involved in their children’s education, when having little to no knowledge of the English language.

This causes for children to have the lack of support and parent involvement throughout their education.

According to the NLCR, “Methods of engaging the Latino community include cultivating long-term relationships, responding to time-sensitive community crises, facilitating inter-generational connections, presenting material in a culturally informed and relevant way, providing hands-on experiences with civic engagement, and growing partnerships within the university and among nonprofits.”

The center is demonstrated to be substantial to the community as it is maintained out of community effort by holding fundraisers.

Universidad Popular is available for the community to book the center for celebrations and private events. Events for people apart of the Latino community is important for the interaction of people within the same culture.

According to a public announcement made by Universidad Popular, in 2018 the center had more than 1,038 students participating in programs offered. The programs offered are run by researchers, volunteers, and student interns.

“I remember our second year that we were open I believe it we stopped off at least 300 students. We ran out chairs, people stayed standing. That shows the commitment, interest and need of the resource that we were providing. Seeing a large amount of people, we had to call other volunteers to come in.” said Alonzo Martinez

San Marcos is one of the cities along with sixteen other higher education institutions in the United States in having The Youth Empowerment Program(YEP) being implemented in their community. YEP focuses on “enhancing academic enrichment, life skills, health and wellbeing, family engagement, community responsiveness and cultural enrichment.”

An article on Early Childhood Education Journal stated “Hispanic parents maintain the perception of a lack of proficiency in English as a significant barrier to parental involvement in their children’s education in the United States.”

In the Cultivating Leadership Class, assistance is provided for the citizenship process. This class informs the community about the requirements for the application along with helping them understand the US government and history.

When migrating to the United States many immigrants did not obtain a higher education and forget what it is like to be in a classroom like setting. Cultivando Liderazgo class offers an educational opportunity that is not accessible to this community.

The class is offered in four different locations throughout the North County of San Diego: Escondido, Vista, Fallbrook and Pauma.

The majority of Vista community members speak Spanish which is why most of the programs and classes are taught in Spanish. This creates a supportive learning environment.

Margarita has been a United States resident for 19 years and is currently in the process for applying to become a citizen. She lives in Vista just a few block aways from the center.

She initially began attending the class last year but due to certain circumstances she was not able to continue. But on January she was able to start.

“This place was vacant, it was constantly vandalized and windows would be broken. Then I began to notice that the lights would be on. I passed by and noticed that classes were being offered, and I thought to myself this is really good.”said Margarita

Through education, members become informed on elections and important issues affecting the latino community.

“By attending these classes, I became intrigued and wanted to continue to learn more about the history and government of the United States.” said Margarita

By having programs for everyone in the family in one location helps build a stronger bond within their families and community.

Other current programs are Cultivating Wisdom and Cultivating Dignity. Cultivating Wisdom is a program for elders in the community assisting with their needs including, social, health and wellbeing. Cultivating Dignity brings awareness and informs on human rights to the immigrant community.

The center has opened this space has really opened up a lot of doors to people. Including the most recent and now graduated class of Cutlivando Liderazgo, who this past year just completed their naturalization passes. They will be ready to prepare and engage in their community to vote for change. Parents will begin to advocate for their children and themselves.” said Alonzo.

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