I had occasion to recently visit Half Moon Bay and become familiar with A.L.A.S. (Ayudando Latinos a Sonar/Helping Latinos to Dream), a program which serves the Latino community. On my visit, small children were learning Mariachi dance, little girls with their dresses spread out and twirling around on the floor. Parents were sitting along the wall watching and chatting.
We found an outstanding person leading the effort. Belinda Arriaga, a clinical social worker, began the program in 2011 when realizing many of the Latino children she was working with struggled with the fear of losing a parent through deportation. She saw these children needed to build self-esteem through cultural resources. Her dedication to this idea runs so deep that, when necessary, she uses her own money to fill in funding gaps.
A.L.A.S.’s aim is to bridge the educational gap for Latino children on the Coastside and change the dominant narrative about them. To accomplish this, the program is a multi-dimensional effort. There is a focus on working with children through dance and mentorship, organizing parents around their children, educating people about immigration issues, and celebrating the concept of community.
To support their efforts to create change, we provided $20,000 for their Folklorico and Mariachi dance classes. Prior to this funding support, children who could not afford the small monthly dance class fees were unable to participate. The funding we provided will allow for the youth dance classes, a crucial community-building activity, to be more inclusive. We invested in A.L.A.S. just as A.L.A.S. invests in its community, perfectly reflected through its motto: “Your struggle is my struggle, together we can fly.”