From Pre-K to Kindergarten

When Emily first enrolled in the José Martí Child Development Center at the beginning of the school year, she was very quiet and timid, and cried when arriving at school. The teachers supported her transition by helping her to learn the routine, make friends with her classmates and read books about feelings and emotions, and she began to develop confidence in herself.

Emily’s social/emotional development has progressed immensely, so much that she now shows great happiness to come to school each day and to interact with her classmates and teachers. She also loves to welcome guests who visit the classroom, giving them gifts and reciting poems or songs in both English and Spanish.

Academically, Emily has developed greatly in all areas of development. She recognizes and makes sounds of all the letters in the alphabet in both English and Spanish, and she knows numbers 1-100. By sounding out the letters, she is even beginning to read some words, including the names of all of her classmates! Emily’s first language is Spanish, but she can also now understand and speak in her second language, English, at the same level as her first language, holding conversations in English and enjoying books and stories in both English and Spanish.

Emily’s success is also due to her mother’s active involvement in her education. Even though she has two jobs, she frequently asks the teachers for bilingual books and other activities she can do at home to support Emily’s development.

Due to the supportive environment at JMCDC and at home, Emily now loves to learn and play and with her teachers and friends. By the winter assessment, she was already meeting all expected developmental levels, so when she starts kindergarten in September, she will be well-prepared for a successful transition to school!

Violet’s Transition

Violet, an African American woman and former service person who served in the US Army, initially came to El Centro de la Raza through a referral from 211-Crisis connections in June 2016. Like more than 50% of the service persons assisted by the Veteran Pathfinder program, Violet was experiencing homelessness during her initial intake interview. Violet also suffers from epilepsy and is physically disabled.

After her initial enrollment into the Veterans program, Violet received supportive services and was able to move from unsheltered homelessness to a shelter bed. Through our efforts at El Centro de la Raza, Violet was able to move into an apartment in Renton and was provided with a care aide to assist her with travel to and from scheduled appointments.

Violet returned to El Centro de la Raza in March of 2019 as a participant in our Food Bank program. Violet re-connected with the Veterans Pathfinder staff and now is able to access additional resources such as bus tickets, and veteran meet-up social engagements that enable her to stay connected to other veterans in the area.

Rosa’s Story: A Journey is Nonlinear

Rosa came to El Centro de la Raza looking for an opportunity to open her food business when she learned of the Business Opportunity Center (BOC). After learning more about the BOC, Rosa realized the exciting possibility of becoming her own boss. However, she first needed to improve her credit score in order to apply for a loan.

The BOC Coordinator referred Rosa to our Financial Empowerment program to begin financial counseling. Rosa went through the program and learned, in her native language, the importance of reviewing expending habits and how to pull her credit report. She left with a plan to pay down her debt aggressively and was referred to Mercy Corp’s Northwest IDA Grant Program to apply for a loan. After undergoing the extensive application process, Rosa received word that she was eligible to take out a $5,000 loan. She used that money towards obtaining a food cart.

She is grateful for programs at El Centro de la Raza, such as Financial Empowerment. She said, “Having these services helps our community further understand the importance of budgeting, a credit score, and money management.”

To learn more about the Business Opportunity Center, including getting on the waiting list, please contact Liliana via email at or by phone at 206-957-4636.

There is More Than What Meets the Eye

Chris*, who was 18 months old, lived with his family in a little space that resembled a basement. His family had many needs that affected their quality of life. His parents were able to afford a heater to combat the winter cold. To sit, they had a table with two chairs. There was no other furniture.

When one of El Centro de la Raza’s program coordinators visited Kevin’s home, she noticed that he was sick with the flu and was kept warm by his mother’s warmth. His mother held him in her arms the entire time because the floor was cold. When the program coordinator asked Kevin’s mother, Rosario*, how long they had lived there, she responded, “Nearly three years.” The coordinator believed it was unfair for the family to live in those conditions and asked what the family needed. Rosario stated they needed only diapers and a high chair for Kevin.

The next time the program coordinator visited, she brought what Rosario needed – and more. She brought food from our Food Bank, a larger space heater, some furniture, dishes, clothing, and blankets. With Westside Baby’s help, Kevin now had diapers, clothing, and a high chair. With more resources and fewer needs, Kevin feels more comfortable in his own home. He is more engaged during home visits and has made considerable improvement in his speech. His vocabulary has grown and wants to participate during home visits actively.

* Name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity and privacy.

2020 Census Count

Our Constitution requires every single person living in the United States to be counted every decade. The resulting data that come from the completion of the Census questionnaire will set the tone for our democracy during the next ten years. Census data guide financial decisions, which impact the livelihoods of all communities including ones that identify as migratory, homeless, or hard-to-count.

Put simply, Census data determine the amount of political representation and federal funding for Washington State. From re-drawing the district lines, to determining the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representative, to distributing more than $800 billion in federal funding across the entire country. Those funds are allocated based on housing, healthcare, schools, highway planning and constructions, and early childhood education needs. Our state expects to receive $16 billion for the next ten years. However, with first-time changes to the Census questionnaire, communities of color anticipate facing critical challenges that pose a severe threat to a full, fair, and accurate Census count:

For the first time in history since 1790, the Internet will serve as the primary response option. Starting as early as March through July 2020, about 80% of households will be receiving an email invitation to complete the Census questionnaire online. Communities that do not have access to the Internet readily or are unfamiliar with technology may not be captured in the Census count.

The Secretary of the Commerce who plays a role in administering the Census made a last-minute decision to add the untested and unnecessary citizenship question to the form. In the 2010 Census, we did not have these challenges and, yet, 1 million children were undercounted of whom 400,000 identified as Hispanics. This staggering undercount cannot occur in 2020.

Every household must complete a questionnaire online or by phone or mail. Households must answer questions based on information as of April 1. For example, the number of people living in one’s household on April 1. There is a different process to count individuals who are homeless or live in hard-to-count areas. Their questionnaires will ask the following: name, age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, tenure (owner/renter), and the relationship to a member of the household.

El Centro de la Raza is in full force preparing for the upcoming Census 2020 count. We are working in strong coalitions with other community-based organizations. Each organization plays a critical role in educating our communities about the challenges of this year’s Census and reminding them to be counted. Every community must be represented in the Census to ensure that every individual receives the resources to which they are entitled. The Census is more than an accurate account of the population. It is ultimately about equality. ¡Háganse Contar!

For more information or questions about the upcoming 2020 Census, you can contact us by emailing or call 206-957-4605. For a list of FAQs, you can view them here.

Recap: Latino Legislative Day 2019

Speaker Chopp with El Centro de la Raza’s youth on Latino Legislative Day – Mar 18, 2019

On March 18, over 1,200 Latinos advocated for their community in Olympia as part of Latino Legislative Day. El Centro de la Raza organized 56 youth and individuals to speak to legislators in person about the community’s needs. We asked for support of our capital projects, including purchasing a building in Federal Way to expand programs and services to South King County, as well as on House Bill 1873 that intends to tax electronic cigarettes, electronic devices, and vape pens in the same way tobacco products are taxed. The experience was inspiring and motivating. A Chief Sealth High School senior expressed the desire to become a Senator one day, standing on the steps of the State Capitol after listening to Senator Rebecca Saldaña encourage students to achieve their dreams.

Recap: Senator Murray Held Press Conference in El Centro de la Raza’s Child Development Center to Champion #ChildCareForAll

Senator Patty Murray came to El Centro de la Raza on March 18 to advocate for working families the access to high quality, affordable child care. She explained the comprehensive bill and how her co-sponsors are making child care a budgetary priority. This bill would cap expenses for eligible families, pay child care providers a respectable wage, and expand child care access to all families. Parents could return to the workforce without exhausting their family’s financial resources. It is also predicted that young children would benefit tremendously from quality care because they spend more time in the classroom developing their brains.

Write a letter in support El Centro de la Raza’s expansion

The Washington State Legislature is now considering which capital requests they should fund. 53% of the Latinx community lives in South King County due to our city’s lack of housing affordability.  El Centro de la Raza requested capital funding to respond to our community’s needs by purchasing an office building located in Federal Way. It is clear why there is a need to expand our programs and services:

  • 12.9% of Latinx students are proficient in math (the state’s average is 31%).
  • 28.4% of Latinx students are ELA proficient (the state’s average is 45.5%).
  • 38% of Latinx ninth graders are failing at least one core class (compared to 18% for white students state-wide).
  • For ELL students, outcomes are even lower with 5% of students meeting targets.

We ask you to join us in urging each of the key decision-makers of the Capital Budget committee to approve our community’s request for funding the necessary purchase of an office building based in Federal Way. Each letter you help send makes a stronger case for why our expansion to South King County is key. Please help us spread the word by asking another friend of El Centro de la Raza to send their letter of support ASAP.

Here is the template and you will find all the key legislators’ contact information below:

Estimad@ Senator / Representative <<their last name here>>,

I am <<your first name here>>, a friend of El Centro de la Raza. I am writing today to ask you for your support in funding one of El Centro de la Raza’s capital budget request to purchase an office building in Federal Way for their program expansion ($1.78 million; legislative district 30).

It is important to stress the need for their culturally appropriate services to be available in South King County. Services will include academic, after-school, and leadership development and support services because of the staggering student demographics and outcome information in the Federal Way School District. Here are some examples:

  • 60% of the children qualify for a free or reduced lunch;
  • Only 12.9% of Latinx students are proficient in math (the state average is 31%); and,
  • Just 28.4% of Latinx students are ELA proficient (the state average is 45.5%).

Compared to white students statewide, 38% of Latinx ninth graders are failing at least one core class. For ELL students, the outcomes are even lower with 5% of students meeting targets. This kind of data is seemingly daunting to address, but El Centro de la Raza is prepared to do the work by purchasing an office building in Federal Way and establishing a presence.

I believe trusted community-based organizations like El Centro de la Raza can help move the needle. Please fund El Centro de la Raza’s capital request to purchase an office building. Thank you for your time and consideration.




<<Your full name here>>
District <<number>>
<<Your full address to verify your legislative district>>
<<Phone number>>

Contact information for Capital Budget committee members:

View our new Sensitive Location Toolkit here

Please click the link below to view our Sensitive Location Toolkit in PDF form:


What is a Sensitive Location?

On October 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an administrative memorandum entitled “Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations,” which set forth the agency’s policy regarding enforcement actions in places that are recognized as sensitive locations. The policy, which remains in full force and effect, restricts enforcement actions, such as arrests, interviews and surveillance for purposes of immigration enforcement in places recognized as sensitive locations. The sensitive locations covered by the policy include, but are not limited to: schools, hospitals, places of worship, and public demonstrations such as marches, rallies or parades.

In effort to protect our visitors and the population we serve, in February 2017 as a school, El Centro de la Raza declared itself a sensitive location and adopted and implemented internal procedures that allow us to react promptly and effectively in the event of a visit by immigration agents to our premises. In addition, in recognition of the potential and capability of sensitive locations to protect and ensure the rights of immigrant populations, El Centro de la Raza has been encouraging other entities and organizations to recognize and designate themselves as sensitive locations and adopt measures that will contribute to protecting the immigrant population they serve.

Teaching Preschool Children about Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice

The teachers at José Martí Child Development Center are explaining what social justice to young children is. While this is a complex subject to navigate for people of all ages, our teachers have prepared diligently to engage in these critical discussions. Some of the strategies they used included talking about differences, deciphering what is fair and not fair, using children’s literature and songs, teaching anti-bias lessons, providing familiar and relatable real-life examples, and encouraging critical thinking to explore solutions. 

Four-year-old Issac responded positively to these activities. He drew a picture of himself holding a sign that said, “Boo Trump, no killing people.” When the teacher asked Issac to share his picture, he said, “I drew this because Trump has soldiers that kill people and he makes bad choices. I know because I hear on the radio and I saw it. I know that.” Our teachers hope these discussions can lead to tolerance and creating a better society. Martha Diaz said, “If I can make a difference in one child, maybe that child can make a difference in our world.” Please support our teachers so that they can continue doing this important work.