A year or so ago we published an interview with Jeff Bisgrove of Arizona Neighborhood Transformation, focused on community development work underway in Guadalupe. We thought it would be a good time to check in again and see what’s happened in the meantime.
Our editor Tim Hoiland sat down down with Marina Gonzales, a local leader in Guadalupe who runs the Guadalupe Learning Lab at El Mercado de Guadalupe. The learning lab’s fall program begins this week.
Flourish Phoenix: How do you see the work of the Guadalupe Learning Lab becoming more and more community owned?
Marina Gonzales: When we started, parents would just drop off their kids. Sometimes, not even that. If they saw my car in the parking lot they knew I was here so they’d just drop them off outside and the kids would run in. Now, the parents walk their kids in here. They stop and talk for a little bit. We recently had an end-of-the-summer party and all the parents were here, cooking food, bringing snacks. They want to be here to see what their kids have been doing.
Some of the parents are also helping to transport the kids when we have field trips, and they’re paying for them to go. And they’re willing to do it. When they come with us to places like Skateland or the museum, they don’t just drop us off – they stay the whole time. All of this means they’re interacting a lot more with our program.
FP: What do you think is the biggest way this work is benefiting Guadalupe?
MG: The biggest thing is helping our kids get through school, getting them the education they need. When they get older they’ll need that education. Without it, they’re going to have a hard life. Less than half the kids in Guadalupe graduate high school. But we have started to see progress.
So far, three students from our program have graduated high school. That’s great to see, but it’s also personal – because they’re my kids. I didn’t graduate from high school, and neither did my brother, my mom, or my dad. But two of my kids have graduated and now they’re going off to community college. That’s success right there – a perfect reason to do what we do.
FP: What about this work gives you the most joy? The most frustration?
MG: The happiest thing is seeing the kids run in as soon as we get here. Or even when I’m not at the learning lab, the kids run up to me, hug me, asking when they can come. Or on days when I’m sick and not here, they’re calling me because they want to be here. These things show me that we’re making an impact.
The saddest thing, I guess, is not having as much community support as I thought I’d have by now. This program is for Guadalupe, and I think more people in Guadalupe need to be involved. They’re starting to, but it’s moving slowly. Another challenge is people who are not here to help but who have their own opinions and agendas about what the program is supposed to be. If you tell us what we’re doing wrong, at least tell us how we can do it better – and be willing to be part of the change!
While the efforts of the Guadalupe Learning Lab are locally initiated and led, Marina and her team are always looking for volunteers to help tutor students. Arizona Neighborhood Transformation is also a qualified organization for the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit, which is another great way to support the work in Guadalupe.
To learn more and to get involved, please visit azneighborhoodtransformation.com.