Planting New Seeds

Building new relationships through local partnerships

Drawn picture of a tree with green pasted leaf cutouts

West Coast Mennonite Central Committee’s most recent partnership is with Dinuba Unified School District. Dinuba is a small rural agricultural community about 15 minutes from the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee’s office in Reedley, CA. The partnership centers on three different schools in the district: Dinuba High School, Sierra Vista High School, and Ronald Regan Academy, each serving a large population of low-income first-generation students in grades 9 – 12.

Youth Program Coordinator Claudia Gaitan and Transformative Justice Coordinator Mario Flores will partner with each school and lead the ELLAS (Engaging in Life Skills, Leadership, Advancement, and Success) and ELLOS (Engaging in Life Skills, Leadership, and Opportunities for Success) programs by mentoring young men and women through biweekly sessions over six-week cycles.

“The goal is to help students attend school regularly and walk alongside them in various challenges they may face. The ELLAS curriculum aims to help students develop personal empowerment abilities through experiential activities and discussions by implementing JARS (journaling, affirmations, personal rules, and setting goals, skills,” said Gaitan.

Flores shared the ELLOS sessions are centered around the time-honored concept of rites of passage for young men to further personal development and societal contribution.

“We are delving into the profound meanings and applications of the following core values: Courage, Loyalty, Industry, Resiliency, Resolution, Personal Responsibility, Self-Reliance, Integrity, Sacrifice, and Love. I aim to engage the young men in thoughtful discussions, activities, and reflections that will help them internalize these principles. This will aid their personal growth and positively impact their academic and social endeavors,” said Flores.

Each session takes place during the student's lunch period. Leaders will begin a new cycle after the six weeks in hopes that more students will participate. Eight female students currently participate in ELLAS, and twelve male students participate in ELLOS. Students already involved are welcome to continue in the following cycles. Through this program, students will receive a stipend upon completion and the opportunity to engage in educational field trips.

Although the program only began this fall, Gaitan and Flores have received positive student feedback. WC MCC continues to look forward to building long-lasting relationships with students and school staff. Please continue to pray for our staff – may the seeds planted bear fruit in time.