Member Spotlight: Casa Guadalupe
by Samra Teferra
Images of the Virgin Mary can be found in many Latin homes. Their presence signifies a place of comfort and safety. CGEC (Casa Guadalupe Education Center) embraced this tradition not only through their name, which means the house of the Virgin Mary, but also through their mission. “We wanted to create a safe place and welcoming space for Latinos and work with people to integrate them into the community,” said Noelle Braun, director of CGEC.
Since 2006, CGEC has helped the Latino community of Washington County develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in America.
CGEC recognizes that integrating into a culture encompasses more than just learning to speak the language. Because of this, they offer a wide range of services such as a health literacy programs, ESL programs, Spanish camps (which are also available for those wanting to learn Spanish), after-school reading programs and community bridge-building seminars, among others.
CGEC holds the community bridge-building seminars every month, which focus on different issues relevant to the Latino community. In the past, they have hosted an immigration attorney to give updates on immigration law, an educator who talked about internet safety as it relates to social media, and sessions to help people get library cards.
The Health Literacy Program was started to help immigrants navigate the health care system and participate in different healthcare programs such as the Healthy Living with Diabetes program. Braun explained they saw the need for the program after they found out that some immigrants were either underinsured or uninsured. This fact led to people waiting to go to the doctor’s office until it is too late and as a last resort option relying on emergency room care. Because the cost of emergency room visits is so high, people leave with huge bills, which causes another burden for families and individuals.
CGEC is also committed to youth, as demonstrated in their Read to Succeed and Dream to Succeed programs. The Read to Succeed program helps young learners with reading and developing an appreciation for literacy. The Dream to Succeed program helps Latino high school students develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence to take college entrance exams. It also identifies their strengths and schools and businesses of interest.
Wisconsin Literacy has helped CGEC in many ways. “We have been able to send volunteers and ELL teachers to English Forward training. We received scholarships to attend the Health Literacy Summit. We got materials for our ELL classes, and we have been able to network with other organizations in Wisconsin who are serving similar populations and can learn from each other,” said Braun.
The need for CGEC grows as the Latino population increases. In the mid-nineties, the Latino population in Washington County was 670. Now, according to the most recent census report, it is 4,000 people.
Braun is excited about these opportunities. “I love seeing our dedicated English learners continue to progress and see how learning more English positively impacts their lives and opens up new doors of opportunity in our Washington County community,” said Braun.
CGEC empowers the Latino community to change their lives and their community positively.