Program offers a ‘PASS’ to education and wellness

Manuel, Nayeli and Maria Lara Cervantes
Manuel, Nayeli and Maria Lara Cervantes
(Courtesy of La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc.)

Nayeli used the loaned computer to attend online classes. Her mother logged on to a Spanish-speaking book club and relaxation classes. The technology helped her father answer questions that had been difficult to understand with limited English.

“It helped us,” said Manuel Lara Cervantes, Nayeli’s father. “We had to adapt, to start with the basics, and they helped us step by step.”

The help came from La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc.’s, Parental Access for Student Success (PASS) program. During the COVID-19 lockdown, PASS secured Google Chromebooks with prepaid internet subscriptions to loan to low-income, undocumented immigrant families. The loans included training and assistance on how to run computer programs that had become part of everyday life — Google Classroom, PowerSchool, Aeries, Zoom and Google Meets, to name a few.

As the pandemic closed schools, a reliable computer and internet connection could make or break a student’s success. For parents, the equipment and primers on basic computer skills empowered them to advocate for their children and support their educations. So did the prepaid internet subscriptions. In a May 2020 survey, La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc., found that among the families it serves, most of them could make web connections only on phones.

“We learned that the digital divide hit undocumented immigrant households disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic, so bridging the digital divide became a top-priority project,” said La Colonia President Manny Aguilar.

For Nayeli’s mother, Maria Lara, the PASS program led her to a book club and to Spanish-language novels she would not normally have read. Reading was a great escape. So was conversing with other readers, especially during the forced isolation of the stay-at-home orders. A stress-reduction class lived up to its name.

PASS covers other wellness bases. In cooperation with the Community Education Program Initiative at Whittier College, PASS offers health workshops with Dr. Ilan Shapiro, online meditation, goal-setting, and Zumba.

The PASS program is made possible by grants from the San Diego Foundation and Coastal Community Foundation.

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