Testifying: Ana Hageage, Director of External Partnerships, Latin American Youth Center
RE: OSSE Budget Oversight Hearing
Good morning council members, council staff, and Committee Chair Grosso. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Ana Hageage and I am the Director of External Partnerships for the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Columbia Heights. LAYC is a long-standing multi-service youth organization with deep ties to immigrant and minority communities in the District. My testimony today is intended to share some budget requests that would increase the efficacy of our work, as well as suggest changes for the coming fiscal year that would benefit youth that are the direct recipients of these grants.
LAYC currently receives $950,000 in OSSE grants and has been able to provide 900 youth with the following services:
LAYC Community Schools, serving over 500 disconnected youth enrolled in Youthbuild PCS, Next Step PCS, The LAYC Career Academy, and LAYC's WISE Program
Cardozo Community Schools, serving over 125 high-risk youth enrolled in Cardozo's education Campus
After School Programs for 100 TANF recipients at Cardozo, Powell, and Raymond Elementary and Middle Schools
21st Century Learning serving 110 High school students at Cardozo and Roosevelt High School through academic, STEM, and enrichment activities
Physical Activity for 100 youth at Roosevelt and Wilson High schools
Sexual Wellness Advocacy Training program (SWAT), by providing funds for STI, STD and pregnancy testing to 300 youth
First, we would like to thank the Mayor for continued funding for existing Community Schools programs in FY17 and commend the council for their allocation of resources to develop an evaluation tool. As well, we are grateful for OSSE's leadership in establishing a city-wide Advisory Council who will assist grantees with some common challenges.
In order to build on this momentum, we would also like to request that the council fund the following:
At least one FTE staff person at the Mayor's office dedicated to Community Schools Oversight
Funds for technical assistance for Community Schools grantees
Increased funding for rigorous and timely evaluation
Second, LAYC like other non-profits, are heavily reliant on these grant funds to operate on a day to day basis. We provide the most valuable services but current grant payment structures necessitate that we pay for expenditures up front, sometimes having to absorb costs that are denied by OSSE. With grants from OSSE totaling close to a million dollars, this makes it difficult to operate.
We recommend that OSSE provide a portion of administrative funds up front so that LAYC and similar organizations can, at minimum, pay for the staff that operate these programs. As well, we recommend that OSSE expand the breadth of allowable expenditures to cover items such as food for youth that are necessary for robust programming.
And lastly we would second DC-AYA's recommendation that OSSE invest an additional $950,000, via an expansion of the kids ride free program, to support transportation to and from programming for youth ages 21-24.
We greatly appreciate the opportunities that OSSE affords our youth and we know that the council values the work that LAYC does with youth in the District. Thank you for listening to my testimony and please feel free to contact me with further questions at
Director, External Partnerships & Community Schools
Latin American Youth Center
The Teen Health Promoters and their mentors at a Zumba class, March 24, 2016, at LAYC.
by Lily Gage, Teen Health Promoters Assistant Coordinator
The Teen Health Promoters huffed and puffed out of class in sweaty school uniforms. Their mentors followed behind them with wet-noodle legs and overexcited heartrates. The Teen Health Promoters and their mentors had just finished a Zumba class as the finale to their unit on fitness.
On March 24th, the Teen Health Promoters and their mentors gathered to talk about fitness and put their discussion in action with a Zumba class. The class began with everyone sharing their favorite form of fitness. Each mentor/mentee pair led the group in a stretch and then brainstormed costs and benefits of exercise, ways to make time for fitness, and barriers to working out. The students blew us away with their thoughtful analysis of the social determinants of health that prevent people from exercising.
Usually when the mentors and mentees discuss a topic, one is teaching the other, but here was a case where the exchange of advice was equal. I watched as one student taught his mentor, a long time runner, a new quad stretch to help him recover from long runs. The mentor then invited the student to run with him the following weekend! Mentors and mentees made fitness pledges, pacts to hold each other to their exercise goals. In this moment, the Teen Health Promoters truly lived up to their name. Not only did they care about their own health, but they were promoting healthy attitudes and behaviors in others.
While the discussions were insightful and stimulating, the highlight of the day was definitely Zumba! Heryca Serna even returned to LAYC to lead the class! Students and mentors alike tried to keep up with Heryca's agile feet and many wondered aloud, "how do her hips move like that?" While Heryca's magical moves continue to baffle many, the health benefits of Zumba are no mystery. The students and mentors went home tired, happy, and determined to hold each other to their fitness pledges.
Photo courtesy of the John Wall Family Foundation.
By Claudia Diaz, Teen Center Youth Developer
Fitting photos courtesy of the John Wall Family Foundation.
Graduation is right around the corner for many high school seniors, but for now, Adonis Garcia and Jeffrey Fuentes are focused on another high school milestone: prom.
For many seniors like Adonis Garcia and Jeffrey Fuentes, planning for prom is half of the fun: asking a date out, ordering a corsage, making reservations for dinner, and of course, what to wear! That's one to-do item they can both check off their lists thanks to Washington Wizards John Wall and Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Sean John fashion line.
Along with eight other DC high school seniors, Adonis and Jeffrey were styled and fitted for tuxedos for their proms. "I am so grateful and excited to receive a tailored suit," said Jeffrey. Both seniors met John Wall at the suit fitting. "It was surreal!" Adonis exclaimed.
"It is very exciting for me to give back to the community," said John Wall. "They are probably happy to see me but I am more excited to see them to know that I can put smiles on their faces and help them enjoy prom."
It's hard to imagine two young men more deserving of this opportunity than Adonis and Jeffrey. Both completed the eight-week after-school LAYC program, The Club, where they learned about conflict resolution, goal setting and social justice.
Both came to the states from El Salvador during their adolescence to join their families. Both will be the first in their families to attend college. Their stories are like many others of youth that cross the border. They want to achieve and succeed in an unknown land.
Adonis, 18, is a senior at Cardozo High School. When he was seven years old, his mother moved to the States. He joined her and his three younger sisters when he was 14. He works part-time at a deli shop at The George Washington University. Most of his salary goes to helping his mom pay the rent and to buy groceries. With the money left over, Adonis pays his phone bill, senior dues, and when able, he sends money to his fourth sister in El Salvador. This fall, Adonis will be a freshman at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. "I feel lucky to have the opportunity to attend college. I want to make my mother proud, and one day I hope to buy her a house," said Adonis.
Jeffrey, 17, is a senior at Columbia Heights Educational Campus. He came to the States when he was 13 years old with his mom with dreams of going to college. When I met Jeffrey, he was prideful and wouldn't get along with others, but Jeffrey has bloomed before my eyes. He now calls himself "the new Jeff," because he is comfortable talking to new people. "I am so thankful for the support I get at LAYC. The Club gave me the opportunity to meet new people and helped me get out of my comfort zone," said Jeffrey. After graduation, Jeffrey will make his dream of going to college come true at Montgomery College where he will train to become a plumber and electrician.
LAYC is so thankful for John Wall and Sean John for helping these two deserving young men look great at their proms. Adonis and Jeffrey's proms are in June. Stay tuned for an update and pictures from their big days!
Juan Jara discovered the Latin American Youth Center by the sheerest chance.
It was 2007. He was walking through Columbia Heights, the D.C. neighborhood to which he had just moved, when a young stranger came up to him and asked if he knew where "the youth center" was.
Jara didn't. He had never been there. He had never heard of it. But he looked up the center's address on his SmartPhone and walked there with the young stranger.
"I didn't go inside that day," Jara says, "but I was intrigued." He learned more about it. He was soon invited to speak about arriving from his native Peru at the age of 19, and the struggles he and his family had faced.
By 2009, Juan Jara had become a regular monthly donor—a member of LAYC's exclusive Heroes Program. He says he is proud to be included, and proud to make important gifts to an organization he calls "one of a kind."
Although Jara did not face some of the challenges that many Latino immigrants face—his family had been upper middle class in Peru—he soon learned that problems were many for Spanish-speaking immigrants, and solutions were few.
"In the mid 1990s, when I arrived in Washington, Latinos were a community of people that really wanted to belong somewhere," he says. "We were very hard-working. Of course, a lot of us spoke and wrote no English. But a lot of us didn't know how to read and write in Spanish, either."
As a result, Jara says, there was an expectation that the children of recent arrivals would do the same menial jobs that their parents were doing.
"It was as if the children were destined," he says. "I'll never forget riding the bus and having a Latino man come up to me and ask, 'Which building are you going to clean today?' "
That's why Jara is such a firm supporter of LAYC programs that break the cycle of poverty and second-class citizenship.
Jara has certainly done that for himself. At the age of 42, he recently became senior vice president and retail banking manager for Eagle Bank. He is in charge of all 21 branches of the bank in the greater Washington area.
Like the banker he is, Juan Jara is very careful with his charitable donations. He says he gives only to organizations that make a difference. LAYC makes a big difference, he says.
"There's a point in our lives when you reach the responsibility to give back," he says. "I'm a busy person so I can't volunteer. But it's obvious that LAYC does tremendous things for children."
LAYC is especially aware that there are differences in the Latino community, Jara says. No two nationalities are exactly the same. No two children are exactly the same. LAYC never loses sight of this, he says, and it treats every child as an individual.
"There are a lot of competing organizations. But LAYC doesn't lose sight of its mission." says Juan Jara.
The Latin American Youth Center's Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC) along with the WorkSource Montgomery and the Montgomery County Department of Recreation held its 11th annual Let's Get It Started Youth Job Fair, Saturday, March 19, 2016, 10 a.m.—1 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans' Plaza, Downtown Silver Spring.
The job fair provided over 600 low-income young people, ages 16—24 with one-stop exposure to employment opportunities, internship and apprenticeship information, and community resources. Over 320 youth participated in on-site interviews at the event.
The Let's Get It Started Youth Job Fair responds to the urgent need in the region for job opportunities and training for this population. According to the Governor's Office for Children, roughly 94,000 Maryland youth are disconnected.
"MMYC is delighted to host this important event for youth, regional businesses, and community stakeholders. As in years past, we welcomed employers ready to hire for positions across a number of pathways thriving in Montgomery County and the region including IT, Health, Construction, Maintenance, Hospitality, Retail, Government, and Human Services," said Lupi Quinteros-Grady, MMYC Acting Director.
Here's what some of the youth attendees had to say:
"Everyone was nice."
"I liked all the options I had."
"Companies offered good information."
"Very well organized, recruiters were very helpful."
"I like how everything was well organized and on point."
Employers included 93.9 WKYS- FM, American Pool, Ana G. Méndez University System, Arrow Sign Spinners, ASM Educational Center, ClubZ! Tutoring Services, Community Pool Service, Continental Pools, CVS Health, DavCo Restaurants "Wendy's", Deloitte Consulting LLP, EMD Sales, Inc., Gandhi Brigade, Youth Media, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, Guardian Aquatics, High Sierra Pools, Housing Opportunities Commission, Human Resources Achievement Program, Inc., LegalShield, Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers - Silver Spring Site, Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers AmeriCorps, Montgomery County Board of Elections, Montgomery County Conservation Corps, Montgomery County Department of Recreation, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Montgomery County Revenue Authority, Music and Arts, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, National Park Service, President's Park/ National Park Service, Public Allies DC, R & D Computers, Roy Rogers/Plamondon Companies, Ruppert Landscape, Safeway, Securitas Security Services, USA Inc., ShopHouse Southeast Kitchen, Six Flags America, SolarCity, Sunflower Bakery, TD Bank, The Fit Solution LLC, The Home Depot, Unipark Valet, United Sates Army, United States Coast Guard, Vector Marketing Corporation, Winmar Construction, WorkSource Montgomery, and YMCA-Youth & Family Services AND YMCA Silver Spring.
Here's what some employers had to say:
"Number of Applicants and time of the year is perfect"
"A one stop shop"
"The staff was excellent"
"I enjoyed how organized the event was. it was such a pleasure to speak to so many diverse and well prepared individuals"
"The venue was very nice, well-organized, and job seekers were engaged! Staff support was excellent! Great job MMYC!"