¡Felices Fiestas y Feliz Año Nuevo!
This is a moment of closure and new beginnings. Above all, it is a time for celebration of life, family and culture. We are thankful for your friendship, partnership and collaboration throughout 2022 and invite you to accompany us as we expand our horizons and embark on new learning and teaching opportunities in 2023.
Our work is interwoven into family and community life. In the spirit of our elders’ storytelling tradition, we wish to share with you a few stories and many photos that emerged from our journey. Many family members, friends, and neighbors answered the call to service and joined us at COVID-19 vaccine clinics, food distributions, ciudadanía classes, civic engagement events and cultural celebrations to ensure that community members received life-saving services.
We welcome 2023, a year of rejuvenation and growth, and look forward to continue serving our community - addressing COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, preparing for disasters and emergencies, accessing healthy food, increasing civic participation, assisting new citizens, and advancing environmental and economic justice - all while embracing our gente and honoring our cultural celebrations.
Below are a few stories from our work in 2022.
Cultivando Liderazgo - Citizenship & Civic Education
Many of our brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents who came to the United States in search of a better life, had the privilege to legalize their immigration status but for a variety of reasons never became citizens. We are helping them to finally achieve that dream.
After two years of virtual citizenship classes, we safely returned to our in-person class. Over one hundred adults are enrolled in the program. They show up to class every Tuesday evening after a long day of work. The majority of our students are essential workers who work in local restaurants, hotels, farms, warehouses, construction sites, daycares and in many other jobs that contribute to our thriving economy. Many are attending school for the first time in their lives and the majority have limited formal education. Several of them will become trilingual because they speak an indigenous language and are learning Spanish and English. They show up with a pencil and book on hand, eager to learn about U.S. history, government, and ways to become more civically involved.
We welcome them with cafecito and panecito to ease their fatigue and to remind them that we are familia. Thanks to our dedicated group of volunteer teachers who provide individualized tutoring, we are helping every person who is eligible to become a U.S. citizen navigate the naturalization process. Some of our students simply attend class to learn. This program is made possible thanks to San Marcos Unified School District, Trustee Stacy Carlson and the staff at San Marcos Elementary school for opening a classroom for our growing class.
Additionally, we work closely with immigration attorney Maricela Amezola and Francisco Barragan to assist our students in their application process. Our friends at Restoration Abbey help our students practice their English skills, and all our volunteer teachers including Paula Rucinski, Marta Goddard, Joni, Elizabeth, Matthew, Alex, Tony, Christine, Jose Lopez, Conrado Alvarez, Paul Mendoza, and Noelle Mendoza provide ongoing tutoring. We also work with San Marcos City Councilmember Maria Nuňez and other elected leaders who teach us about local government and how to get involved in our community.
The success of our citizenship program is made possible thanks to our dedicated students and volunteers. Recently, four of our students - Enriqueta Gijon, Adriana Martinez, Juana Martinez Morales and Esperanza Salcedo - successfully completed their interviews and are now U.S. citizens and new voters. Muchas Felicidades!
We will resume our class on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at San Marcos Elementary School - Multipurpose Room (1 Tiger Way, San Marcos CA 92069) 2023 starting at 5pm. The class is FREE and open to anyone interested in learning U.S. History and Civics.
Cultivando Dignidad - Food Justice
Many families in our community continue facing economic hardship and are going hungry. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse and inflation compounded the situation. We see the need first-hand.
On Tuesdays, cars begin to line up in the dirt field in front of the Pauma Valley Community Center on Highway 76 and wait for several hours until the Feeding San Diego truck arrives at around 11am. Don Hilario’s small pickup truck is usually the first in line.
To help alleviate the immediate need for food, we partnered with Feeding San Diego and have coordinated the food distributions in Pauma since 2010. However, we had to increase the number of distributions and more than doubled the amount of food being distributed in Pauma every Tuesday, currently serving over 250 families.
In 2022 alone we had a total of 32 food distributions in Pauma Valley and distributed food to over 6,500 families. We invited community partners to bring additional services and resources to support families in this rural community. Thank you to the Pauma Valley Community Center Association, SD County Health and Human Services, Education Begins In the Home, and SDSU’s Communities Fighting COVID-19 for joining our efforts to ensure farmworkers and their families in the rural region of our county have access to healthy foods and other critical resources.
Cultivando Salud - COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing Access
Our community continues to feel the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovering from the loss and devastation many of our families experienced is going to take time and resources. We continue to provide access to life-saving vaccines, COVID-19 tests and masks. In 2022, Universidad Popular reached over 56,500 community members during 390 outreach events. We also hosted a total of 98 COVID-19 and Flu vaccine clinics in collaboration with San Diego County HHSA, San Ysidro Health, and Neighborhood Healthcare that administered 11,714 vaccines in North County.
Testing has proven to be an effective tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure our communities have quick access to these tools, our team has been distributing At-Home COVID-19 test-kits to uninsured, underinsured and vulnerable members of our community. In 2022, Universidad Popular distributed over 160,000 COVID-19 antigen tests at outreach and vaccination events.
The success of our strategic and targeted outreach is made possible thanks to the collaboration of partners such as SDSU’s Communities Fighting COVID-19 with Vaccines, Neighborhood Healthcare, Champions for Health, San Ysidro Health, Vaccinate All 58, SD County HHS, South Bay Community Services, TrueCare, MAAC, Education Begins In The Home, Escondido Union School District, San Marcos Unified School District, and our dedicated volunteers.
We will continue combating Covid-19 in 2023. Below is a calendar of upcoming vaccine clinics in San Marcos and Escondido.
In Escondido, the next vaccination event is on Sunday, January 8 at the North Inland Live Well Center from 10 AM to 2 PM. The address is 649 W Mission Ave, Escondido, CA 92025.
In San Marcos, the next vaccination event is on Sunday, January 14 at La Mirada Academy from 9 AM to 3 PM. The address is 3697 La Mirada Dr. San Marcos, CA 92078.
Cultivando Fortaleza - Promotores
Nurturing learning for community leaders and promotores who give so much of themselves for others is fulfilling and helps us all thrive. This summer we returned to our in-person classroom with our “Curso de Promotores”, a course in Spanish designed to cultivate camaraderie, leadership and appreciation for our community. We talked about the role of promotores in fostering a healthy and thriving community. We planted and nurtured the seeds of leadership and democracy in our community while also growing maize, squash, tomatoes, and chiles. We enjoyed sharing dinners together, learning about each other’s family histories, discussing politics, preparing for disasters, watching movies such as Encanto and setting goals for personal growth during the coming year.
We are going to continue to meet every Wednesday at 6pm for ongoing learning and planning. See you on January 11, 2023!
Cultivando Dignidad - Workers' Rights
Universidad Popular continues to support workers in our community.
We are part of the statewide, COVID-19 Workplace Outreach Program (CWOP), a network of community-based organizations conducting outreach and education in working-class communities hardest hit by COVID-19. We are providing information and resources on COVID-19 safety guidance, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, and workers’ rights.
We are collaborating with the Employee Rights Center (ERC), California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., City Heights Community Development Corporation, Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, and Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California to advocate for workers in our community.
On March 2022, Universidad Popular participated in a state-wide week of action in which 61 community based organizations joined efforts with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), and Cal/OSHA to educate workers about workplace health & safety, retaliation, worker leave and pay benefits. On March 9 we hosted a press conference at the North County Live Well Center in Escondido with Escondido Councilmember Joe Garcia, SD County Supervisor Jim Desmond, CA Labor Commissioner’s Office, Cal/Osha, Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), Employe Rights Center, and Pilipino Workers Center. You can watch the video here.
During the record hot summer months, we provided information to workers about Heat Illness Prevention Standards in the workplace.
For additional resources regarding worker’s rights, visit the Safer At Work website.
On August 18, 2022, our Co-Founder and Co-Director, Dr. Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez was a panelist on the Uniting for Workplace Equity: Immigrant Entrepreneurs webinar hosted by the Kim Center for Social Balance. Dr. Nuñez-Alvarez, along with Vista City Councilmember Corinna Contreras, Joyce Parra, and Dr. Hei-ock Kim discussed ways to create equitable work environments for immigrant and refugee workers. You can watch the webinar here.
Cultivando Fortaleza - LISTOS
Our community tends to be the most severely hit during disasters and emergencies. As we’ve experienced first-hand in previous wildfires and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we face many barriers accessing critical information and services.
In July, Universidad Popular and Comité Cívico del Valle, Inc. received a grant from the California Office of Emergency Services to promote emergency preparedness in immigrant, farmworker and Spanish-speaking communities.
We are hosting trainings and presentations in Spanish to increase disaster preparedness in our community. If you would like to schedule a presentation, please contact us at [email protected].
Here is the link to the funding announcement featuring Co-Director Dr. Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez.
For more information on LISTOS.
Events Recap and Team News
We participated in many community events and organized several cultural celebrations. If you'd like to see our 2022 Recap in Photos on Flickr here.
June 29: “Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters” Presented by the California Center for the Arts
On June 29, 2022, we had the opportunity to experience the “Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters” at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
As community educators and public art enthusiasts, we welcome the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues of critical importance to our community and uphold our constitutional right to free speech and expression. Thank you to the trustees, advisors, artists and patrons for elevating, educating, and inspiring us to appreciate diversity of thought, experience and expression.
Read the letter of support that our Co-Founder & Co-Director, Dr. Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, shared with the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Check out the News Post on our website here.
July 25: Future of California Elections
On July 25, 2022, we participated in the Future of California Elections Conference in Burbank, California. We learned about current issues facing our democracy. We are committed to defending voting rights and expanding voting for all.
August 2022: Sacramento Trip
We joined forces with Team Justice San Diego, Moms Against Torture, and Pillars of the Community San Diego the week of August 7-11 on a trip to the Capitol in Sacramento. At our state Capitol, we joined All of Us or None during Quest for Democracy 2022 and Californians for Safety and Justice during Time Done 2022 for statewide advocacy days on criminal justice reform bills. Joined by San Diego community members in our time in Sacramento, we also visited Assemblymember Akilah Weber, MD who introduced AB1630, the Vulnerable Defendant's Right to a Fair Trial Act.
September 29: Belonging Annual Gathering For San Diego County Food Vision 2030
Food is a basic human right. We are proud that our Co-Director and Board Member of the Farm Worker CARE Coalition, Dr. Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, shared this message at the second Annual Gathering for San Diego County Food Vision 2030 as a panelist in a discussion session titled, The Heart of Our Movement: Building Solidarity with Food System Workers.
Our team including community leaders Eva Tinoco and Luz Villafana attended the event at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. We understand how important it is to take care of our land, water, people, culture, and local businesses. We are all connected and we all need healthy food. If you're interested in learning more about this event, here is the link to the website.
October 20: Election Education Fair
Voting is complicated, especially for first time voters. Every election provides a teaching and learning opportunity.
On October 20, 2022 we held our nonpartisan Election Education Fair to provide information on how to navigate the voting process, how to register to vote, and where to learn about candidates. We invited candidates from throughout North County to attend our event. Thank you to the candidates who joined us including Maria Nuñez, Stacy Carlson, Joe Garcia, Randy Walton, Jim Desmond, Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, Joseph Rocha, Catherine Blakespeare, Paul Mendoza, and Andrés Martín. We learned about their stories and community members asked them questions.
October 19: Papel Picado Workshop
Día de Muertos holds special meaning in our community because it connects us to our ancestral roots.
We kicked-off our four part community workshop series in honor of the Día de Muertos Celebration with a Papel Picado Workshop for the entire family on October 19, 2022. We had about 31 community members participate in this workshop. We then used the Papel Picado to adorn the community altar. Thank you to Restoration Abbey for the collaboration with this event, and thank you to our community members for creating such vibrant and colorful Papel Picado.
October 26: Sugar Skull Workshop
Our second workshop taught about the symbolism of the skulls and how to decorate the sugar skulls. We also designed tissue paper flowers to decorate the community altar. Thank you to our collaborators at Restoration Abbey and our neighbors who participated in this family-friendly workshop.
Our third workshop taught how to design and assemble the community altar using the handcrafted Papel Picado, Sugar Skulls, Tissue Paper flowers, and the cempasúchil or the Mexican marigold to adorn the altar. Our elders and community members worked together to set up the altar and community members brought photos and memorabilia in homage to their loved ones who have departed. Thank you to our community educator, Angélica Santiago, community leaders, and friends at Restoration Abbey for collaborating with us during this culturally meaningful event.
Our ofrenda included a memorial in remembrance of the 19 children and 2 teachers who were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Their lives were abruptly cut short on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 in the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
November 2: Day of the Dead Celebration
We closed our Día de Muertos holiday with a community celebration. Our friends and neighbors joined us for dinner as we shared stories of our loved ones. We cherish the opportunity we had to meet new friends, to share why this day is special for us and to nurture family and community relations. Thank you to everyone who participated in the workshops for helping us to bring people together. We hope to see you at next year's celebration!December 16: Community Posada 2022
We close 2022 with gratitude and in the company of more than 300 community members who attended our Community Posada. Families brought their favorite holiday foods such as champurrado, beans, pan dulce to share and we served delicious tamales. We made our pilgrimage visiting our neighbors around the neighborhood and ended the night with a piñata, music and dance. Special thanks to Restoration Abby, our neighbors and community leaders for coming together to promote peace and understanding in our community.
Here is a folder from our Posada! Thank you, Richard Moreno from Restoration Abbey for the photos!