Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Year in Review

2010 has been a year of tremendous growth for the Michael Chavez Center beyond our expectations;  we have been blessed just as we serve as a blessing to others.  We entered the year with a newly refurbished facility and a new name, carrying forward the passion of deceased small business and Monument Community advocate Michael Chavez.  We began the year with three small programs and ended with four expanding programs; we began serving 120 people each year and this year ended serving nearly 800 individuals; we began with four full time staff and ended with nine; we began with four committed volunteers and ended with nearly thirty.
                However, this past year is about much more than numbers and program growth.  It is about people and the building of new relationships and opportunities.  It is about staff, program members, volunteers, Board members and partner agencies who care deeply about each other and the community.  It is about funders who uphold accountability and who support organizational sustainability. Through all these blessings, our impact on individuals and families—significantly raising self-confidence and skill levels in addition to developing new job and business opportunities—has been nothing short of tremendous. 
                Members of our day labor program have new skills and are demonstrating newfound assurance in publicly speaking about both their joys and their concerns as vital members of the community.  For the technology program, classes have been booming; new course offerings and an Internet awareness initiative bring computer learning directly to those who seek it.  Students are amazed and how they are now able to help their children with homework, find useful life-changing information on the internet, and seek new opportunities for employment.  A new career development program has gotten off to a great start, adding a new buzz to the center with skill assessments, resume building, interview coaching and job searches constantly taking place. A cooperative development program, which had launched one business in 2009, now boasts three cooperative businesses and is looking at new prospects for personal training, asset development and financial access.
                The bottom line?  The Michael Chavez Center is part of a movement that is seeing a community transformed as people contribute skills, exercise leadership, collaborate with others, and make use of the economic opportunities that are available to them.  In this way, blessed through the Center, they too are becoming a blessing to all those around them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Computer Repair Students Earn Nation-wide Recognition

On November 30, Marina Gonsalves and Rosa Navarro returned to the Chavez Center nearly 6 months after graduating from their A+ Computer Repair certification course.  They were surprised to find themselves the recipients of the IT Merit Award Scholarship, which “recognizes the outstanding accomplishments by students and adult learners” according to the CompTIA Education Foundation website.  CompTIA is a nonprofit association focused on advancing IT professionals and companies by offering among other services, internationally recognized IT certifications.  As part of their programs, CompTIA also gives back to the community through their Education Foundation, which aids those under-represented in the IT industry to gain access to training through opportunities like the IT Merit Award Scholarship.

Each semester, teachers of CompTIA courses – like our A+ certification course – nominate up to two of their students to receive the award.  Of the hundreds of graduates across the country, only a selection of 25 students earned this $250 scholarship for pursuing an IT career.  This year, the two nominees from the Chavez Center received the prestigious recognition.  “I’m still processing the fact that I won [this award],” Marina expressed as Stride Center instructor Norm Trudeau presented her with the certificate.

“It says a lot about the students that the Chavez Center brings in,” commented Norm.  “They come here with a certain level of dedication.  They want to do something with their lives.”  Marina, for example, really put herself out there, sharing her skills and strengths for the benefit of everyone in the class.  She would spend time helping those who were not native English speakers to really absorb the information. 

Rosa’s story was a little different.  At the beginning of the class, she was very intimidated and overwhelmed.  Despite setbacks and frustrations, Rosa persevered and overcame the intimidation, graduating the class with flying colors.  “Really any of the students in that course could have been nominated,” Norm reflected.  “[These two students] really exemplified the purpose of the Stride Center and the Chavez Center and their commitment to give back to the community.”

From here, the women plan to continue their IT careers.  Already Marina is working through another CompTIA certification, taking the next important steps toward becoming an IT expert.  Rosa has also worked on developing a computer repair cooperative business to continue building her expertise.

This is just the beginning.  With the first group of A+ computer graduates showing such success, we cannot wait to see what this second group has in store when they finish classes this week.

Congratulations to Rosa and Marina!  We all wish you the best of luck in pursuing your careers!

We also want to extend a big thank you to Norm Trudeau and Stride Center for the phenomenal level of instruction through which you have empowered students to step into a brighter, IT-filled future.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Landscapers Learn Competitive Edge

The evening of November 29th was a chilly one, but inside the Michael Chavez Center it was warm with smiles and congratulations radiating from the proud graduates. A ceremony was held for the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) students who committed to 2 weeks of training at the Center. The class trained local landscapers on how to use water efficiently in their everyday landscaping work—saving their customers’ money and protecting a valuable ecological resource.

This was the first QWEL class taught in Spanish in the East Bay area, and the results were astounding.  The class filled up very quickly and had a long waitlist.  What’s more is that with the support of the Contra Costa Water District and amazing instruction from Lori Palmquist, an irrigation expert, 100% of participants in the class passed the standardized exam!  Equipped with official irrigation certification, local landscapers are now much more appealing options in the competitive job market.  Congratulations to all who completed the class, and we wish you the best of luck in your future jobs.
We are glad to have been able to collaborate with Lori and the Contra Costa Water District to offer this course to the community and look forward to continuing to build this partnership.  With a high demand among local landscaping companies and individuals, the Chavez Center hopes to offer this class and others like it in the future.

As an economic development organization we are constantly look for new ways to help our community gain skills and become more employable. As a Bay Area Green Business, the Michael Chavez Center also fully supports initiatives that help spread the word about eco-friendly business practices.

If you are a local business, we’d like to hear from you!  What types of classes and certifications are you interested in receiving?  E-mail us and tell us about your ideas!

Day Laborers Learn to Teach Others

Spending three long days at the Hayward Day Labor Center, Fernando, Armando, and Carlos eagerly listened to the instructors, learning all they could about job safety and health so that they could become certified to become teachers themselves.

(Left to right) Armando, Nati, Fernando and Carlos
 at the Hayward Day Labor Center.
During the month of November three of our Day Labor program members attended a training at the Hayward to become certified as Worker Occupation Safety and Health specialists. The certification provided through UC Berkeley and OSHA authorizes them to train their fellow members and promote safety in the work place. “The members showed enthusiasm and great leadership skills during the training,” Nati said of the men.

Daily the workers encounter challenging weather and dangerous work conditions at their jobs.  The knowledge and training that these certified specialists received at the course will prepare the workers and help them to prevent health issues and injuries in the future.  At the same time, these members of the Day Labor program are stepping up as leaders in their community, taking responsibility of educating, informing and empowering their peers so that all of them can step into a brighter future.

Beginning next year, these certified specialists will hold regular workshops for the other Day Labor members on the various topics covered – OSHA, workers compensation, MSDS, hazardous chemicals and more.