Author Archives: Hayley McKie

El Centro de la Raza’s 2017 Community Needs Assessment

El Centro de la Raza conducts a formal Community Needs Assessment every three years to summarize the current needs of the Latino community in our region. This assessment directly informs El Centro de la Raza’s organizational strategic planning process to design, improve and sustain effective programs and services that best serve the community’s needs. It’s also used to advocate for the community at the local and state level.

For this year’s Community Needs Assessment, we conducted two studies using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. CBPR engages community members as leaders in planning and implementing the study as well as analyzing and creating a plan of action from the results. This approach maintains accountability to communities most impacted by the issues studied.

We found that the top three concerns in our community are in the areas of employment, discrimination, and housing. The most pressing needs are for secure, family-wage jobs; safety from interpersonal and institutional discrimination on the basis of race, language, and immigration status; and for affordable housing with access to transit, stores and businesses, and childcare. The complete report (available here) covers these findings in more detail, and includes information about the other six areas we studied (education, healthcare, financial stability, transportation, nutrition/food access, and service utilization).

El Centro de la Raza’s leadership team is developing recommendations based on our findings for service providers, funders, and advocacy work. We will release a report summarizing these recommendations later this year.

Read the Community Needs Assessment here.

Unidos in Finance Program Now Enrolling!

El Centro de la Raza is excited to announce that we are currently enrolling participants for our next cohort of the Unidos in Finance (UIF) program. UIF provides a 6-week Financial Sector training along with job readiness, money handling, and customer service skills for adults with barriers to entry in the employment system.

 We are looking for participants, basic eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Bilingual (any language)
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • High school diploma/GED
  • Six months of customer service experience

We have two upcoming training series:
– October 22 to December 12 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9 AM to 12 PM)
– January 14 to March 6 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9 AM to 12 PM)

Contact information: 
Juanita Unger – Program Coordinator
Phone: (206) 957-4608

Cecilia Acosta – YAT and UIF Program Manager
Phone: (206) 957-4624

Petition to the Federal Aviation Administration on Environmental Equity

We have taken on the mantle of environmental equity for our beloved Beacon Hill community where the population is 70% people of color, 44% born outside the US with 36% not speaking English well, and one out of 5 live in poverty.

Beacon Hill is surrounded by air and noise pollution emission sources from roadways (I-5, I-90, Rainier and MLK) and airplanes that fly overhead every 3 minutes.  Road traffic is getting worse.  As to airplanes, from 2012 to 2016, flight landings increased by 33%. In 2016, 70% of ~200,000 landings flew over Beacon Hill at 3,000 feet at times 2,000 feet.  Airplane passengers will increase from 38 million in 2014 to 66 million in 2035, and international flights will double and cargo volume to triple from 2017-2021.

Air and noise pollution health impacts include asthma, reduced lung capacity, irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and throat for air pollution; and heart disease, stress and sleep disturbance for noise pollution along with many other factors.  Neighborhood residents and workers have repeatedly complained to no avail.

The last couple of years, we learned about Beacon Hill’s environmental and health situation, hosted 24 community meetings in Chinese, English, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese and talked with 467 concerned community members to get their ideas and guidance for the Community Action Plan.  Noise measurement, reduction and getting mitigation funding is on the top half of the list.

We are launching a petition to Congress and the Administrator of FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to ask them to:

  • expand communities eligible for mitigation and funding to include adversely affected communities that are not adjacent to airports such as Beacon Hill,
  • provide systematic ground measurements of noise when asked in addition to the FAA annualized average noise measurement,
  • reduce the maximum allowable levels from 65 decibels to 55 decibels to be consistent with local and US laws, and
  • host regional airport planning to mitigate undue burden on affected communities given increased regional demand.

The timing is right because FAA’s authorization will expire this March 30, 2018 and Congress needs to reauthorize FAA.

Our goal is to collect 1,000 online and hard copy signatures from concerned residents, workers and friends.

Our deadline is February 28.  Please sign the petition and help us gather online and/or hard copy signatures.  Please note translated versions of the petitions will be coming soon.

  • To sign the online signature, click
  • Please feel free to forward this email and post the link on your social media.
  • To sign the hard copy petition, get copies to collect signatures, and/or turn in signed petitions, you can either print the attached document or come to El Centro during:
    • Weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, see Veronica Gallardo at Room 304
    • Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm, see Maria Batayola at El Centro building 2524 16th Avenue South, Seattle WA 98144.

If you want to get more involved or have any questions, please contact our volunteer organizer Maria Batayola at or 206 293 2951.

I learned that during the community meetings, it was not unusual for attendees to say that there “is nothing we can do about it” and to just “ask for what little you can get” because the “problem is too big”.  Environmental equity covers the natural and the built environment.  We believe that what we have built, we can be rebuild for the sake of our beloved communities.  We believe and call for “Equal benefits, equal burdens.”

Si se puede.  Yes, we can. Mil gracias.


Estela Ortega
Executive Director

Ensuring Equity for Tobacco 21 Policy

A new legislation would raise the legal smoking age to 21, and would be a powerful move to reduce youth tobacco use in Washington State.
It will prevent smoking-related disease and death for future generations.

To improve the health of all of Washington’s youth, we center equity in the requirements and implementation of Tobacco 21. The Healthy King County Coalition Tobacco, Marijuana, and Other Drugs (TMOD) work group has developed the following recommendations for an equitable Tobacco 21 law:

  • Don’t punish youth for tobacco purchase or possession.

The tobacco industry blatantly targets youth. Laws that punish youth have little evidence to support their effectiveness, and they are a tactic to shift blame from the tobacco industry onto youth. Communities of color, LGBTQ, and low-income communities are already targeted by the tobacco industry, meaning that punishments will fall disproportionately on youth in communities that are already the most affected by these disparities. Fines and other civil and criminal penalties can have an adverse effect on youth and their families already struggling.

  • Keep youth safe by avoiding armed confrontation.

Liquor and Cannabis Board enforcement officers carry guns. Current enforcement of sales laws can involve stopping people who appear under-age after they make a tobacco purchase. Raising the age of sales, these encounters will increase and with older youth and young adults.

The communities targeted by tobacco companies are also ones who experience unequal treatment from law enforcement. With increased encounters with officers, an incident could escalate and compromise the well being an LGBTQ-identified youth or youth of color. Enforcement can continue using compliance checks as well as establishing ongoing retailer and community education instead.

Tobacco 21 is not just a law; it is a norm change. With successful implementation, today’s tweens will adopt a worldview where eighteen to twenty year olds can’t buy tobacco. Risking the safety of a youth to catch one offense is not worth it.

  • Invest in prevention and cessation for youth who could previously purchase.

Tobacco use causes nicotine addiction. Most people who smoke wish they could quit. Raising the age of legal of tobacco sales will have the strongest effect on youth entering their teens.

It is also an opportunity for eighteen to twenty year olds at the time of implementation to quit before continuing a lifelong addiction. An investment of adequate resources to support tobacco prevention education and cessation services is necessary.

A December to Remember for José Martí Child Development Center

The children of the José Martí Child Development Center enjoyed a special month of December, following the theme of the month “Family Celebrations.”

On Monday, December 11, our children, teachers and even participants from the Senior Program enjoyed the joyful spirit of Christmas with a visit from Santa! Each child received a picture with Santa in front of a beautiful winter scene, and our friends from the University Sunrise Rotary Club, who volunteered their time for the ninth year in a row, made the celebration extra special by gifting each child a new book, to encourage their love of reading and help build their home library.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, Toys for Tots made a generous toy delivery so we could provide gifts to each of the 308 students of the José Martí Child Development Center at Beacon Hill and Hirabayashi Place and our Luis Alfonso Velasquez After School Program. This was made possible thanks to the hard work of Julius Gibson and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves with support from the local fire stations. Every single one of our children was overjoyed to receive an individual gift, and these gifts helped ensure a joyful holiday season for our beautiful children!

It was a magical time for everyone and for us it is a rewarding feeling to see so many smiling faces. Mil gracias to the University Sunrise Rotary Club, JMCDC Staff, Toys for Toys and Julius Gibson for helping to bring so much joy to our children during this holiday season.

Hope for Youth Student Accepted into Citizen University

Congratulations to Ignacio* from El Centro de la Raza’s Hope for Youth Program for his acceptance to the Citizen University 2018 Youth Collaboratory! He will be one of just 24 students from around the country to travel the nation to Simi Valley CA, Kansas City MO, and Charlottesville VA to meet leading civic innovators from across the country, participate in interactive workshops, and complete independent projects in their communities. This is a unique and exciting opportunity for Ignacio to gain the skills for future involvement with civic engagement!

Ignacio left his mother in Guatemala in pursuit of his dream to become an electrical engineer. He has been an extremely hard worker, joining the workforce at age 12 to support his mother financially, and overcoming numerous obstacles to maintain a high G.P.A. in school. On top of work and school, Ignancio has taken ESL courses at El Centro de la Raza, been a part of our Hope for Youth program, and volunteered for the food bank and youth programs here. After learning more about social justice and community engagement in our youth programs, he now hopes to combine his interest in electrical engineering with civic engagement. His acceptance into the Citizen University Youth Collaboratory is an enormous step in making that dream a reality. We are incredibly proud of him: once again, congratulations to Ignacio!

*name changed for privacy

Young Adults in Tech Now Enrolling!

El Centro de la Raza is excited to announce that we are currently enrolling participants for our fifth cohort of the Young Adults in Tech (YAT) program. YAT provides a 6-week Salesforce Administrator training along basic coding instruction and a 60-hour internship for young adults with barriers to entry in the employment system. Salesforce Administrator certification can lead to living wage jobs in the technology sector. YAT also provides job readiness training, employment assistance, money management, and financial literacy skills. Participants who complete the 6-week program plus a 60-hour internship will receive $1,000!

Our 6-week training begins on June 4th, 2018 at El Centro de la Raza (Transportation fare can also be provided for interested participants upon enrollment). Class dates are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10 AM – 2 PM.

We are looking for young adults, ages 16-24, who are out of school. The basic eligibility requirements are as follows:

Must be:

  • Low-income individual
  • Between the ages of 16 and 24
  • Familiar with and/or interested in learning more about Salesforce, Coding, and Jobs in the Tech Industry

Cecilia Acosta – Program Coordinator
Phone: 206-717-0090

Las Posadas y Virgin of Guadalupe Day

Las Posadas y Virgin of Guadalupe Day
On December 12th from 6 PM – 8 PM, join El Centro de la Raza in celebrating Las Posadas y Virgin of Guadalupe Day. This is a free and festive cultural event for the whole family! The evening will include Las Posadas, a mural presentation, caroling, live music, free food, a nativity scene, and Santa. This year, Las Posadas will be held in our new event space, Centilia Cultural Center (1660 S. Roberto Maestas Festival Street). Las Posadas is led by the children and teachers of the José Martí Child Development Center! To RSVP or for more information, please call (206) 957-4619.

Nuclear Weapons and Social Justice – from Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

If you had $1 trillion that you could put towards any issue, what would you spend it on? Education? Affordable housing? Fighting climate change? Ending hunger?

Our government chooses nuclear weapons.

We will spend an estimated $1.2 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next 30 years. That comes out to $4.6 million every single hour. With so many desperately needed programs and departments getting cut in this year’s budget, it’s disturbing to think about spending a trillion dollars on the deadliest and most inhumane weapons ever made.

But the cost is only the tip of the iceberg. Just 20 miles from Seattle is the largest concentration of ready-to-use nuclear weapons in the country – over 1,000 weapons. If Washington state were a country, we’d be the third largest nuclear nation in the world. These nuclear weapons are hurting human health and the environment in our state’s most vulnerable communities.

The uranium used in US bombs has historically been mined largely on Native American land or in colonized countries. In Spokane, WA, the Midnite Uranium Mine has so contaminated Spokane tribal land that it is unsafe to drink the water or collect food from the land. Miners’ health has suffered, too. Not told about the risks, some workers brought home contaminated objects and used materials from the mine. Although a federal compensation program exists for workers, most don’t even know it exists and not a single Midnite Mine worker has received any money.

Also in Eastern Washington, the Hanford Nuclear Site built in 1943 produced most of the plutonium used in over 70,000 nuclear weapons made by the US during the Cold War. This includes the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed an estimated 80,000 people. Hanford’s construction displaced, without compensation, tribes that had used the land for thousands of years: the Wanapum People, present year-round, the Yakima Nation, who wintered there, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and Nez Perce. Roughly 1,500 residents of the nearby cities were also displaced to make way for the Hanford Site. Once it was active, black workers lived in segregated lodgings and were generally restricted to the worst jobs. Discrimination was so bad that one worker described Hanford as the “Mississippi of the North.” When the war ended in 1945, Hanford continued to operate, but no black workers were offered permanent employment.

Today, Hanford is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site and largest environmental clean-up project. Large volumes of radioactive waste have since been stored in 177 underground tanks, 67 of which have leaked a total of approximately one million gallons of waste into the surrounding soil. Its remediation is expected to cost $115 billion and take 100 years to complete. Present-day workers remain subject to dangerous conditions, including exposure to chemical vapors and radioactive plutonium.

Beyond Washington state, there are dozens of nuclear weapons storage sites, testing areas, labs and production sites, and uranium mines across the country, all with similar stories and consequences. They remind us that although the Cold War has ended, nuclear weapons continue to devastate our communities.

But there are clear steps we can take to secure more effective and equitable compensation for victims of nuclear weapons production and testing. Groups across the country like the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium are currently fighting to expand the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Here in WA state, groups like Hanford Challenge and Heart of America are working to better protect workers and residents around Hanford, and properly fund clean-up. El Centro de la Raza is also a part of the Washington Coalition to Stop the New Nuclear Arms Race, which is working to cut government spending on nuclear weapons. You can help today by contacting your members of Congress and state representatives and urging them to rectify these injustices.