Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund
As representatives of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), we are honored to once again be invited to present at the annual Head Start California Conference. The title of the presentation is, “¡Sí, Se Puede! Working Collectively to Increase Latinx Family Leadership through Abriendo Puertas in the Mission District of San Francisco.”
For 2021, we are excited that MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) Head Start parent and Abriendo Puertas facilitator Maria Cristina Ortega (photo) will be joining us as a co-presenter. Attendees of the presentation will learn about MPN’s Abriendo Puertas collective strategy, plus Maria Cristina’s experience as a Head Start parent contributing to the impact of Abriendo Puertas in the Mission.
The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum — the first evidence-based program developed by and for Latinx parents with children ages 0-5 — has proven to be the perfect fit for our community in the Mission. The 15+ partners of the MPN community anti-poverty education initiative work collectively to improve school readiness. A subset of partners collaborates to increase the access of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors for our families.
MPN developed the Abriendo Puertas strategy to eliminate organizational silos and to work together to achieve community-level goals of increasing access to the program. MPN supports this collaboration by providing funding to partners to provide the Abriendo Puertas program; facilitator training for staff and parents; job opportunities for parents who are now facilitating the program; the collection and analysis of data that tells the collective story; and professional development opportunities through the Professional Learning Community, where facilitators come together to share best practices, plus work on their personal growth and transformation.
The MNC Early Head Start/Head Start Program employs a two-generation strategy that offers Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors to support parents in developing their leadership and advocacy skills so that they become leaders in their homes and communities. The story of Maria Cristina is an example of how these community programs are positively impacting lives.
Maria Cristina emigrated from Guatemala to the United States 11 years ago to pursue better opportunities and help provide for her parents and siblings, who stayed in her homeland. When she had her first child, Maria Cristina learned about MNC’s Early Head Start Home Visiting program. Enrolling her daughter in that program, Maria Cristina gave her daughter the opportunity to be in a learning environment that is culturally relevant and fostered her home language of Spanish. Having already established a relationship with MNC’s Head Start program, Maria Cristina’s son was able to follow in his big sister’s footsteps. With the peace of mind that both her children were receiving high-quality care, Maria Cristina focused on her passion for education and personal/professional growth.
Maria Cristina enrolled in MNC’s Abriendo Puertas parenting program, and it propelled her to accomplish her goals. The child development topics and focus on family well-being equipped her with the tools to support her children with their transition to kinder and beyond.
Maria Cristina shares:
“I learned how to enjoy my children more, spend quality time with them, respect their time and motivate them through educational games. As a mother, I discovered internally how to improve my interactions with my children. I learned how to heal my wounds from my negative childhood experiences and the appropriate steps to advocate for myself. Now, I feel like I’ve learned how to be an understanding mother, use reciprocal communication and help my children navigate the educational system with my support. I can now be an advocate for myself and my family and speak up when my motherly intuitions kick in to alert me that my rights, the rights of my family and community are being violated.”
Throughout the years, Maria Cristina’s passion for education continues to be her North Star. She has been able to get her GED; infant-toddler massage certification; prenatal and postpartum doula certification; lactation consultant certification; culinary training; yoga instructor certification; and Abriendo Puertas’ facilitator certification. As a Wellness Counselor for Homeless Prenatal Program, she is a pillar in the community: She is now helping other parents find the path to becoming leaders in their home and community. Maria Cristina is grateful for the opportunities that she receives as a Head Start parent, saying, “I have achieved many goals in my life and have grown professionally thanks to all of the support Head Start has given me.”
This year, MPN is taking additional steps to deepen the Abriendo Puertas work by growing the number of parent facilitators in the community. When parents graduate from Abriendo Puertas, they are equipped with the parental knowledge, tools, and confidence to advocate for their child’s needs and support their learning. Post-graduation, it is natural that parents are looking for opportunities where they can practice their new skill sets. For many, the Abriendo Puertas facilitator training is the next step in their personal growth and transformation.
We are thrilled to partner with parents this year to continue to support their professional growth and development.