Neighbors Helping Newcomers
Driven from their native countries by poverty and violence, Latino families are increasingly moving to small towns like Cascade, Iowa, where their growing presence is boosting business and saving schools from declining enrollment. But they also face many challenges, including language and education barriers. After learning of the need for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) classes, the Community Foundation convened partners to understand the challenges of the Latino community in Cascade. As a result, a partnership was formed with CFGD, Cascade Elementary, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and the residents of Cascade to offer evening HSED and ESOL classes at Cascade Elementary four nights a week. Community members rallied around the 32 adult students and their children by providing free meals and onsite childcare.
But the Foundation did more than just act as a catalyst for change. In addition to bringing experts to the table, CFGD was able to use its own financial expertise to help drive fundraising efforts to keep the classes local.
“If parents have better education, it’s a full circle,” says Gisella Aitken-Shadle, district adult education and literacy development director at NICC who assisted with the project. “None of this would be possible without the support of CFGD and the community of Cascade in supporting this important community need.”
“There is a sizable Spanish-speaking community in Cascade,” says Amy Manternach, CFGD VP of finance and philanthropy. “The Foundation believes in strong families and vibrant communities, and these families want to see their children succeed and want to be able to give back to their community. In creating this partnership to make these classes possible, the Foundation is bridging language and cultural barriers and helping these families and future generations contribute to the economy for years to come.”
That neighborly support is something residents like Maria, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 14, really appreciate.
Now 31, she started these classes to help her become a better reader and complete her HSED. A few months in, that work finally paid off when she could help her daughter with her math homework for the first time.
“I always thought no one really cared about us,” she says. “I cannot believe they [our neighbors in Cascade] want to help us.
I am thankful.”