By: Elena Richardson, Grants Program Manager for The Fund for Santa Barbara
From Casa Magazine published April 17th, 2015.
“Everything started with the Reading Festival,” says community activist Eva Cedillo. Four years ago, parents and community members in Guadalupe were given the opportunity to share their hopes for their community with school administrators and political leaders when Eva came up with the idea of a Reading Festival. “Working parents are looking for ways to be more involved in their children’s education,” says Eva, “and they don’t always know how. This was an opportunity to help parents connect with their kids, foster a love of reading, and cultivate an appreciation for our culture.”
In their first year, a handful of parents volunteered hundreds of hours “even pulling things from the trash”, says Eva. “We got very resourceful and very creative!” That year, the festival drew seventy attendees and it has been growing steadily ever since. Now in its fourth year, organizers are expecting over two hundred attendees. For the past three years, the Fund for Santa Barbara has provided grants in order to provide sustainability for the Festival’s early years of establishment.
“The Reading Festival is an opportunity to help parents connect with their kids, foster a love of reading, and cultivate an appreciation for our culture,” says Eva Cedillo, Community Changer.
Located ten miles west of Santa Maria, Guadalupe sits in the Northwestern corner of Santa Barbara County. Eighty-six percent of the 7,000 people who live in Guadalupe identify as Latino or Hispanic according to the most recent census data. The leading industry is agriculture and the average income is $11,608. Seventy-three percent of Guadalupe’s residents speak a language other than English at home (compared with the California’s statewide average of 43%). “Everyone says that nothing happens in Guadalupe, but we’re changing that,” says Hilda Rodriguez, a parent in Guadalupe.
The impact the parents were having grew so much that they started calling themselves “Community Changers”, rather than volunteers. “This isn’t just about a reading festival, this is changing our lives”, says parent Olivia Porras.
Olivia shared that the reading festival has brought out many first-time volunteers into the community. Many are now trained and serving as health educators called “Promotores” in Spanish, in their community. This summer, Olivia will serve as the Central Coast at the statewide Promotores Conference in Sacramento.
“We’re knocking on doors with CAUSE,” says Hilda of the political advocacy organization which promotes voter education and civic engagement.
Eva Cedillo is one of the “Community Changers” now serving on the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Parent Advisory Committee, which helps determine how state funds are spent in their schools.
In the face of local issues like pesticide spraying and drought, Eva says “for the first time, families are getting involved in local environmental justice issues.”
“Slowly, slowly Guadalupe is changing” Olivia says, “and we’re all changing.”
Daniela, Hilda’s ten year old daughter, shared that being part of the festival really helped her find her voice and “get out of my shyness.” When asked what her friends thought about the festival, Daniela says “it was so fun and my friends were talking about it for months!”Hilda Rodriguez and her daughter Daniela with Congressmember Lois Capps at the Fund for Santa Barbara Grant Awards Party in June 2014.
Save the date for the Fourth Annual Guadalupe Reading Festival to be held on Friday, March 11th, 2016 at the Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe, CA. Everyone is invited to attend!
For more information, please contact Samuel Duarte, THRIVE Project Coordinator at (805) 343-1194 or visit: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Thrive-Guadalupe-Community-Changer-Project