I came to the United States on January 27, 2016. My mother came to the US when I was 8 years old, so I had not seen her since then. When I came, I tried to enter High School, but they told me I could not be accepted as I was 22 years old. My sister suggested that I reach out to Sacred Heart Center to pursue my GED. I started taking my GED class at night, as I was working during the day. I worked from 8 am to 5 pm so I could go to the Center to take my classes from 6 pm to 9 pm. After I finished my GED classes I started taking classes to work towards my dream of studying Software Development at a four-year college.
Johan recently received the 2019 Ida Hill scholarship and is attending classes at J. Sargent Reynolds Community College!!!
This April, we celebrated our 6th GED graduation. Since the GED program started in 2011, close to 100 people have gone on to receive their High School equivalency certificate! Our students have been committed, hard-working and determined to reach their goals, while working fulltime, raising families, and in some cases, overcoming limited access to education in the past. This very important educational step opens opportunities to better employment, and allows access to higher education. Our graduates have gone on to do amazing things; such as Olga, who went on to become a dental assistant, or Francisco, who is now a Deacon at Sacred Heart Parish, or Johan, who is now studying English at a local community college.
“I come to classes at Sacred Heart Center because the teachers are kind and treat us like family.” Antonia has been attending classes at SHC since 2015. Antonia is from Mexico, and is 61 years old. She has been working on her English through our ESL classes, and her dream is to become a U.S. Citizen. In spite of struggling a bit with English, Antonia took the Citizenship preparation class, conducted in English, and filled out her paperwork to finalize the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen. She requested a language waiver for the citizenship test, because she was worried she would not pass the test in English. At her interview, because of a complication, she ended up taking the citizenship test in English, and she passed! Antonia is now waiting to hear about her date to take her citizenship oath. In addition, Antonia received a perfect attendance certificate for this last semester of ESL. Her excitement at both of these accomplishments was heartwarming when she recently shared the news with me, giving me a joyous hug.
“The SHC is always
in my heart because the staff are happy and helpful. I was feeling lost 3 years
ago when I first came to the SHC. I don’t have the words to express how
thankful I am for the help I received.”
Olga had been in Richmond for 5 years but needed guidance. Getting her GED, with help from the SHC, has opened a lot of doors in her life. She is currently working as a receptionist at a pediatric office, and she is also studying to be a CNA. She would like to also study medical systems. She doesn’t have the words to express how thankful she is for the help she received at the SHC. She has 3 children who are doing well in school. Her oldest son is 13, in the honors program. She often helps him with his homework, which she wouldn’t be able to do if she hadn’t gotten her GED.
I thank God and all
the staff who labor daily at the Sacred Heart Center. For the great support that they offered me, either by putting
at my disposal the incalculable value of their knowledge, sharing my doubts and
anxieties, supporting me in moving forward… what I have realized, that this is
a Center that indeed performs and caries on with the help they offer. And I
have no more words than to thank you, and may God continue to bless you always,
thank you very much”
A mom from Guatemala shared her gratitude, describing the assistance that SHC provided through the Family Protection Project, our growing immigration legal services program.
Martha, a GED student says: “I think the GED classes in the morning serves as a motivation for those women who are at home (housewives) and who were not able to finish their school. The GED is a key for the future, and I am grateful for being one of those participating. My classmates say that because SHC provides child care, it makes it even possible to even think about getting their GED, and others, whose kids are in school, see the GED in the morning as the perfect opportunity to improve their lives.”
The Sacred Heart Center, a non-profit community center located in South Richmond, is one of the few organizations in the Richmond area dedicated to serving the low and moderate income Latino population. Our current mission, adopted at the beginning of FY 2019, is to connect Latino families with tools to thrive and flourish. We envision a Richmond community that actively embraces each other in our shared humanity. The following principles and values guide our actions and decisions:
Compassion – Care for the dignity of each person is at the heart
of our work
Inclusion – We create community by welcoming all
Equity – Systemic change is advanced through sustained action
Collaboration – We work together in solidarity
SHC is one of the few organizations in the Richmond area that offer comprehensive services for Latino families and individuals that are culturally-appropriate and welcoming. SHC is very unique in this regard, an oasis in the desert. SHC program participants often speak of finding a sense of community and belonging at the SHC – of finding their place in Richmond. This trust is one of our most precious assets, and maintaining this trust is at the core of SHC’s approach.
SHC’s work manifests through our three portfolios, providing holistic support for the entire family:
- A continuum of educational opportunities for adults
- Innovative programs for youth & children
- Strategic partnerships to meet community needs
Transportation is offered to most of our direct programs and for some of our community initiatives
In FY 18, SHC enrolled almost 900 adults, children, & youth in our core educational programs, and served over 9,000 people through our Community Hub.
Through our programs and services offered at our comprehensive community center, we believe that our work is deeply aligned with the vision of a thriving region where all individuals and families have the opportunity to succeed. Our adult education programs lessen barriers to employment and help adults better participate in the larger Richmond community; our youth and children’s programs provide access to educational opportunities to families that may not otherwise have options for their children, and our community hub work increases health equity for immigrant families, all thus strengthening the family unit.
Sacred Heart Center directly impact families in a transformational way. Through
our comprehensive services, SHC is building strong families, improving
self-sufficiency, and promoting educational success. We continue to support
families as they thrive and flourish, and enrich the greater Richmond area as a
community that is truly welcoming to all.