Trinity Baptist has adopted two local elementary schools for the last three years (Hawthone and Longfellow). They have developed a very strong relationship with these two schools – the children, teachers, administration. They are now working on using asset surveys to leanr more about what the parents want and then to get their church involved in helping the parents do what they are interesting in working on.
Granada Estates, Glendale (65th Ave and Bell)
Granada Estates is a neighborhood near Faith Bible Church. It spans from Judy Lynn Drive on the north (a block north of Paradise Lane), Greenway Road on the south, from 66th Avenue on the east and 73rd Avenue on the west.
This ministry works toward neighborhood transformation, offering assistance with yard work, exterior painting and community celebrations. Relationships are developed with residents, identifying leadership and allowing networking with people and services residents can utilize. Asset mapping is underway with an emphasis on what the neighborhood would like to learn and how they would like to develop. They have help start a Block Watch and are working with the local elementary school to help with the children’s education from Granada Estates
Palomino District (32nd St and Cactus)
The Palomino community (Cave Creek Rd. to 32nd St., Bell Rd. to Greenway) is comprised of predominantly Hispanic/Latino families many of which are first generation immigrants. Many, if not all, of these families came to Arizona seeking a better life. They value hard work, family, recreation, faith, and good food. Unfortunately, this community has long been known for its challenges: poverty, high crime, low educational performance, low levels of trust (of outsiders and each other), and few safe play areas.
90% of the students at Palomino Intermediate school are Hispanic (National Center for Education Statistics). Many of these families are first generation immigrant families. Although these children enjoy a rich cultural heritage they are also presented with an extra set of challenges. These conditions negatively impact children in Palomino in the areas of education, poverty, and socialization.
Over the last 18 months we have observed a number of family characteristics which present significant educational challenges for Palomino youth:
- Parents who only speak Spanish;
- Parents with no college education and, in many cases, limited high school education.
- Parents who are unemployed or who work in very low paying jobs.
- Parents who work 2 or 3 jobs to survive and have very limited time to support their child’s education.
Unfortunately, due to these circumstances parents are limited in their ability to help their children with school work. It is also very difficult for parents to encourage their children to pursue post-secondary education due to their complete lack of knowledge and understanding of higher education systems.
Without educational success Palomino children will continue the cycle of poverty and health challenges, both physical and mental, that living in poverty presents.
Both the Palomino and Campo Bello elementary schools are Title 1 schools, meaning over 50% of families live in poverty. The Palomino community is designed in such a way that housing options consist mainly of low-income apartments and low-income trailer parks. This has created a very densely populated area of low-income families all living within one square mile.
According to Childtrends.org (Publication 2009-11) Hispanic children have the highest poverty rates of all ethnic groups in the USA. In addition, having immigrant parents is associated with greater likelihood of being poor. Poverty has the following impact on children (childtrends.org, Publication #2009-11):
- More likely to experience poor health and health related issues;
- Increased anxiety and aggression;
- Greater risk of displaying behavioral and emotional problems, such as disobedience, impulsiveness, and difficulty getting along with peers;
- Low self-esteem;
- Higher risk of teen child bearing;
- Negative academic outcomes such as lower achievements scores, dropping out of school, and lower reading scores;
- Increased exposure to violence;
- Greater likelihood to be poor as adults.
After working with families in the community for over a year we’ve noticed that these children are torn between two worlds: the culture of their parents’ home country and American culture. In many cases these children are left on their own to figure out which aspects of each culture to embrace. We’ve noticed that many children in this community are not able to acquire the skills necessary in order to perform as a functioning member of society. They struggle to learn the attitudes, actions, and values necessary to be successful in American culture. For example, while many children speak both Spanish and English, their levels of speech, vocabulary, and reading (language proficiency) are low in both languages.
The statistics reported by the Phoenix Police Department for 2009 (phoenix.gov) regarding the Palomino community are shocking:
- The crime level in Palomino is 250% higher than in surrounding neighborhoods.
- The violent crime level in Palomino is about 300% higher than in surrounding neighborhoods.
- Drug related crime is 5 times higher in Palomino than in surrounding neighborhoods.
According to a local Resource Officer, Santos Robles, there are three active gangs in the Palomino area. Proof of their presence is visible with the high amount of graffiti and violence in the neighborhood. These gangs are recruiting younger children and the Resource Officer identified the age of 13 as a critical age for criminal involvement.
According to the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (nccev.org) children exposed to this level of violence are impacted in the following ways:
- Increased risk of developmental disorders, juvenile crime, PTSD, and anxiety disorders;
- Distrust of adults;
- Increased aggressiveness;
- School difficulties;
In conversation with the leader of a group of Palomino mothers we were told that there is deeply rooted lack of trust within the community. Not only do they not trust “outsiders” they also do not trust each other. The lack of trust leads to isolation. Communities and families that isolate themselves destroy the bonds and linkages that create resiliency. Without resiliency an individual/family/community cannot “bounce back” when they experience adversity.
We witnessed this first hand with a family from the Palomino community. The mother was diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness and the family had no idea what to do or how to handle the situation. The parents bounced from clinic to clinic and hospital to hospital looking for help. They lied to the children about the mother’s true condition. When the children eventually found out the true condition it was devastating to the point where one mentee told her mentor that she wanted to end her life.
An isolated community is a weak and vulnerable community, easily shaken and destroyed when adversity strikes.
Few safe places for children outside of school
While the schools and a local recreational club provide after school options for children, not all participate or are able to participate due to lack of transportation, affordability, or simply a lack of trust. Beyond these options there are really no other safe places for children to spend their time.
Many of the children we interview for our program state that the main reason they want a mentor is so they can “get out of the house and do something.” Many parents work long hours and multiple jobs so they have limited time with their children. In fact, one girl we recently matched with a mentor was elated because she could finally spend time out of the apartment. Her mother works evenings so every day her life consisted of going to school and then going home where her 15 year old sister watched her until bed time.
However, over the last several years there has been an effort to turn things around in this community. The schools are engaging parents and providing more opportunities for children. Neighbors are invited to meet regularly to discuss issues and solve problems. Local congregations are uniting to provide services and support to community members. Residents themselves desire change and are slowly gaining confidence.
South Phoenix – Central Ave / Baseline
Barrio Nuevo / Dave Bennett has been living in this neighborhood and reaching out to his neighbors, specifically youth, for the last seven years. He runs tutoring, mentoring and lifestyle development classes year around with about 70 kids and many community adults.
South Phoenix – Broadway and 24th St / Brooks Academy
MentorKids USA and First Pentecostal church have teamed up to reach out their community here. They are developing a community garden, they run a strong youth program and run a Community Resource Center to help bless the local community. Recently, they have starting doing asset surveys to help get more of the local community involved helping to improve their community by working on projects that matter to them.