A multi-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services will allow the National Latino Research Center (NLRC) at California State University San Marcos to develop enhanced Head Start training programs for teachers who work with Latino children. The NLRC, Neighborhood House Association, and the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee on Anti-Poverty (MAAC Project) in San Diego are joint recipients of the four-year cultural competencies grant. The full award is expected to total $598,271; the first year of the project will receive $149,572 in funding.
"We want to focus on bringing cultural awareness and sensitivity to Head Start teachers in San Diego County," says Ronald Mize, NLRC associate director. Under the grant, the NLRC will develop cultural competency training programs. This includes developing college and training courses that address Latino traditions, cultures and history, along with a DHHS training module on cross-cultural services (Proyecto Informar). "Our goal through this grant is to develop curricula that are sensitive to cultural experiences and traditions for Head Start teachers," he says. Mize, along with NLRC director Fernando Soriano and Neighborhood House research director Alfonso Rodriguez head the team that will implement the project.
According to Mize, NLRC has a specific mission designed to provide information on issues focusing on Latino populations. The four divisions within NLRC handle services, research, training and data dissemination. The NLRC promotes increased research and training of researchers who are studying Latino populations. The Center has a national scope that addresses all Latino subgroups, including Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central and South Americans. The Center is committed to areas such as health, mental health, education, social issues, housing, labor and employment, and immigration.
For the cultural competencies project, NLRC will offer college-level sociology courses that focus on Latino communities and special topics courses dealing with children, youth and family issues and service delivery to Latino children. An additional component of the project is educational counseling for Head Start teachers who are working to meet the new DHHS requirements.
Neighborhood House Association is one of the largest multi-purpose social service organizations in the United States. It has provided health and human care services to the San Diego community for over 85 years. Neighborhood House provides county-wide services offering a broad spectrum of comprehensive health and human care programs designed to strengthen families and to assist them in becoming self-sufficient such as: child development and day care, gang diversion and drug prevention, services for pregnant women and their unborn children, food services, senior nutrition, adult physical rehabilitation, mental health, HIV+/AIDS psychological counseling, HUD-home ownership and rental counseling, employment services, social service case management, emergency and other services that assist the less fortunate and low income families.
"We are excited about this opportunity to increase awareness and competency of our culturally diverse staff," says Barbara Y. Fielding, executive vice president and director of Children, Youth and Families Services at Neighborhood House. "With the increased percentage of Latino families, this training will be invaluable."
Dr. Victor Resendez, director of Head Start at the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee on Anti-Poverty of San Diego (MAAC Project), says the grant will enable Head Start programs to enhance teacher quality for students and parents. "We are excited about the cultural competencies aspect of the grant because in many instances, that's what is missing from our teachers' training." Head Start is mandated to improve teacher qualifications by 2003, he adds.
Mize is excited about the developing cultural arts opportunities for children. "I want to focus on bringing cultural arts into the classroom and murals offer a good example," he says. "Mural art is a medium of group expression that gives children a chance to work in a team environment, they can learn to draw the icons of Mexican culture and express themselves creatively."
For more information on NLRC, call 760-750-3500 (www.csusm.edu/nlrc); for MAAC Head Start, call 760-471-4210 (www.maacproject.org); and for the Neighborhood House, call 858-715-2642 (www.neighborhoodhouse.org ).
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