Pajaro CAT Spotlight

Bright Beginnings Advocacy, Community

Pajaro is often referred to as “no man’s land,” however Rosemary Hernandez, Child Development Coordinator at Pajaro Valley Unified School District, and Erica Padilla-Chavez, Chief Executive Officer at Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, Inc., are working to change this. Both are bridging the gap between young families and local resources available to them by rallying around several parents to encourage discussions about what’s important to their families to several nonprofits, community members, and other early childhood development service providers. “We’re encouraging moms, aunties, and grandmas to have a seat at the table, to be heard by local organizations on what they really need for their families to thrive,” shared Rosemary.

The Listening Campaign, which was supported by Bright Beginnings’ Karina Lehrner, resulted in a grassroots program called Promotoras. “We knew that because of Pajaro’s geographic location, services are sparse. We needed to better understand and utilize the talent that we already have here,” explained Erica. “The Listening Campaign allowed us to realize that we already had several local moms who are natural leaders. This is when we asked ourselves, ‘Why don’t we capture this talent and use the Promotoras model to help the families of Pajaro?’”

The Promotoras is an evidence-based model that has been used successfully in the healthcare field for underserved Latino communities. The CAT was able to use the Promotoras model to train local women, while adapting it to reach community goals related to supporting child development by introducing additional early childhood components. Once the Promotoras start working, the CAT will work to monitor the results they achieve so that successes can be scaled elsewhere.

“We’re equipping these individuals with the understanding that they have the skill set necessary to advocate for themselves — it’s really a self-realization process. They have the power to work with the systems already in place, to bring forth additional services for their community, children, and local families.” said Erica.

The selected mothers are required to attend three leadership development trainings. The trainings are led by the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA), a partner organization in Salinas that had previously used this model to help change the mental health system for underserved Latino communities in Monterey County.

The Pajaro CAT envisions this group of mothers will serve as a bridge to the array of services that are being offered through the local First 5-funded integrated service collaborative. “There is a huge immigrant population that are either hesitant to utilize the resources or are simply not aware that these resources exist for them,” shared Rosemary. “These women are trusted in their community, and they can be a vehicle to inform and engage their community about the services that are available to them in Pajaro,” shared Erica.

While the Promotoras are learning and developing their leadership skills through the CCA trainings, the Pajaro CAT is working to develop a way to measure and track their successes.  “We’re interested in developing a logic model with identified goals to engage new members from Bright Beginnings and Bright Futures to join us,” shared Erica. “This could be a quantifiable goal — how many additional people can we attract and retain?”

Once they have graduated from their training, the Promotoras’ will also look at supporting other changes in their community. For example, there is a real need for a community resource center that can accommodate families before and after typical working hours and on the weekends. “They have identified several locations where this can be established, now we need to organize and engage the people who hold the power to make or break this decision,” shared Erica. “All of these efforts contribute to achieving Bright Beginnings’ goal of ensuring all children are thriving at an early age, and seeing movement on common indicators of success.”

This process has been a success thus far simply because “we’ve kept the families and moms at the center of everything we do,” explained Erica. “When you’re working with families and moms, it’s not always nice checklists and spreadsheets. Rosemary has had to make herself available on the weekends to meet with the moms, we’ve had to budget for childcare when the moms are in trainings, and provide food like breakfast burritos for everyone involved. This works because we’ve been flexible and accommodating to the needs of the moms.”  

From the beginning of this process, the Pajaro CAT has received support from Bright Beginnings. The CAT has also relied heavily on their partnership with CCA to provide guidance to the moms and suggestions or solutions when necessary. “We’re looking forward to inviting more folks to the table when we’re ready for their expertise and support,” said Rosemary. “The Sheriff of our community has been really great and is ready to work with us. When we’re ready for this support and have strategically thought through what we need from the Sheriff’s Department, we’ll be sure to reach out and rely on our partners like this to see this program through.”

Click here to read and download the Listening Campaign Mothers from Pajaro in English (2MB).

Click here to read and download the Campaña de Escucha Las Madres de Pajaro in Spanish (2MB).