May 2022 – Cuentos from Our Work

Sister Innovators in Education, Teacher Mari and Teacher Titi

Between both sisters, Teacher Mari Rico and Teacher Martha Diaz have almost half a century at El Centro de La Raza! Not only has their work shaped several generations in our community, they continue to shape the landscape early child development by pioneering federally-recognized programs and techniques that incorporate bilingualism, cultivate a feeling of belonging, and foster lifelong commitments to social justice in early childhood development

2022 marks Teacher Mari’s 25th year at El Centro de la Raza, where she oversees the Luis Alfonso Velasquez Afterschool Program. For Teacher Martha, she is entering her 23rd year at The Jose Marti Child Development Center!

Teacher Mari Rico

While working full-time, Mari obtained her (CDA) Child Developmental Associate’s degree at Seattle Central Community College, and her (AAAS) Associate in Applied Arts and Sciences with a specialization in Bilingual/Bicultural Education at Shoreline Community College. She then completed a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Education from the Praxis Institute, and a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master’s Degree from Goddard College.

Under Mari’s supervision, the Luis Alfonso Velásquez Afterschool Program achieved accreditation from the National Afterschool Association in 2008.  In 2018, School’s Out Washington recognized Mari with its Champion Award. As a STARS state-approved trainer and Early Childhood Education coach, she also trains other teachers in the field.

When asked how she manages to teach and find time to learn, innovate, and contribute to her field, she said it makes her job easier. Teaching as a profession is constantly evolving; everything from toys to technology is continually changing, and staying ahead of the curve is important to meet students where they are.

Classrooms at El Centro de la Raza create a sense of family, which includes a feeling of responsibility and being agents of community empowerment. For this reason, kids in her program often participate in marches and encouraging civic engagement in their families.

One of the most rewarding parts of Mari’s program is seeing students return, who sometimes enrolled as early as age one! Students have come back to work and volunteer at El Centro, invite her to their graduations, and some have even proudly brought their children to meet her.

Teacher Martha Diaz

Martha Diaz is also a pioneer in the field of bilingual education at the national and international level in early childhood education.

For Martha, creativity and art are essentials for teaching–especially when it comes to teaching more complex issues around social justice and inclusivity. In the classroom, she uses poetry, music, and all mediums of visual arts, including changing the décor to reinforce lesson plans. Students are invited to bring in artifacts from their home culture to teach appreciation of other cultures.

Bilingualism is as imperative for a native English or Spanish speaker in our classrooms, and children are taught that all languages have equal value. It is a truly unique environment, especially for children of color, that strengthens their confidence and gives Martha a deep feeling of commitment to her classrooms at El Centro de la Raza.

Martha Diaz’s preschool classroom is a model for the Soy Bilingüe approach and receives visitors from across the country and globe. In her classroom, Martha implements educational strategies from the Seattle Early Education Collaborative (SEEC), Early Childhood and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and Creative Curriculum as well as maintaining standards of accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC).  As a part of her graduate studies at Goddard College, Ms. Diaz created a visualization of the 100-Point Soy Bilingüe Preschool Assessment Tool, earning her MA in Education with the Dual Language ECE Concentration. Martha is an extraordinary, creative, and conscientious educator and learner. With nearly twenty-three years of experience at El Centro de la Raza’s José Martí Child Development Center, she has achieved incredible outcomes for children in their language and literacy development, their socio-emotional development, and their anti-bias and cultural competency development.

When asked about what it was like to work with their sibling, both reported a strong sense of gratitude. They have the unparalleled honesty shared between siblings for constructive criticism, and enjoy comparing notes on the latest methodologies that help them bring the most innovative advances to their classrooms. Along with our students, we echo our appreciation for the lifechanging innovations they are bringing to the field of education and future generations to come in our community.

A Call that led to Housing, Employment, Day Care and more for one family

Once a family is enrolled in our programs, Susan Banhegyi’s work begins. As our Family Navigator, she meets one-on-one with parents and caregivers to get to know parents and caregivers and help them navigate available services in King County, and create a warm connection between our participants and other service providers that are linguistically and culturally appropriate.

In April, Susan received a call from a participant who was having trouble attaining housing. She and her baby daughter, who has down syndrome, had been living in a drafty mobile home full of leaks and their landlord had asked them to leave by the end of the month. Despite applying to several apartment complexes, she was not approved because of her lack of credit history. Additionally, she had no proof of income as she was paid in cash.

Within four days after contacting Susan connected the participant with our partners at Seamar, mother and daughter were approved for housing. At the same time, Susan worked with her to apply for Supplemental Security Income, secure childcare, and employment.

Next steps? Susan is helping the participant connect with legal services for support with immigration paperwork and counseling services.

As a single mother herself, Susan is constantly inspired by her participants’ resilience and resourcefulness. She asserts, “I am always mesmerized how single moms manage to excel even when having every hardship thrown their way.” She is able to meet her clients where they are on a personal level; as a single mom, she put herself through school while working full time too.

Through her work, she is helping our community tackle homelessness by working with one family at a time to secure safe housing.

In April, Susan made 54 referrals like this and continues to build connections with external partners to provide holistic solutions to help families not only survive, but excel.

Without emergency funds, families run the risk of becoming homeless, going hungry or becoming ill. If you can please consider donating!

Connecting our Senior Citizens with Katie Yuen

Katie Yuen

In a time when Seattle’s cost of living has sky-rocketed, seniors in our community on fixed incomes have faced even deeper isolation and tough choices during the pandemic. In response, our Community Connector, Katie Yuen, has worked with seniors to connect them with our food bank and programs and external public benefits and services to make sure our seniors don’t have to choose between paying housing, healthcare, utilities and food. In honor of her work and this month celebrating the aging community, we share Ms. Lew’s story.

Ms Lew is a retired senior and longtime resident of Beacon Hill. Since her husband passed away many years ago, Ms. Lew has lived alone and relied on social security benefits. Until the pandemic, this was enough, but as prices for everything increased, her benefits did not cover her expenses and she needed food assistance.

Despite the tough situation, she reached out to El Centro de la Raza and was immediately at ease when she met Katie, who was able to speak with her in her native Cantonese. Katie relates deeply to the experience of many immigrant seniors in her care on a personal level. She remembers when her parents newly migrated a social worker at a nonprofit changed their lives by helping them navigate the public benefit system in their own language. This experience changed her family’s life, and has inspired her work with El Centro de la Raza for five years now!

Katie helped Ms. Lew apply for Fresh Bucks program for food and introduced her to El Centro de la Raza’s staff and Food Bank. She now looks forward to coming to el Centro’s Food Bank to also connect with community in her language– our Food Bank Coordinator also speaks her language!

In the last six months, Katie has assisted more than 95 seniors with public benefit applications and has helped them feel like they have a home at El Centro de la Raza.

To support work like Katie’s, please consider donating or volunteering with us!

Cuentos from Our Work- April 2022

Jimena is in the front row to the right with our other winners!

Winning through Art & Health at the Mexican Consulate!

We are super proud of Jimena Rico-Diaz for the gorgeous mask she designed in a mask coloring competition hosted by the Consulate of Mexico to highlight health and safety!

She won third place and was awarded four tickets for the Woodland Zoo Park and four tickets for the Seattle Aquarium.

Two other students from El Centro de la Raza also received honorific mentions for their creativity.

We are very proud of their work and pleased to work with organizations like the Consulate of Mexico that encourage creativity and health to flourish in the community! 

Federal Way Community Shredding Event

In collaboration with the City of Federal way, we were able to divert 1.6 Tonnes of confidential paper waste from a landfill!

For context, that is the equivalent of the weight of a Toyota Corolla or an adult hippo! 

Have some papers been accumulating with sensitive information in your household?

Follow and share updates here for future events: Community Shred Events | Washington State

Join the Community! May 2022

March with us May Day 2022!

May 1st – May Day is a day to convene and march to support immigrants and workers! We will be joining forces with El Comite, MLK Labor, UFCW 3000 Union, Bayan Seattle, Washington State Labor Council, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.

Sunday, May 1, 2022
Judkins Park 
20th Place S & S Dearborn Street

For more updates as the event approaches, please check

Give Big- We need you!

May 3-4, 2022 – We are counting on our donors yet again to meet our fundraising goal of $50,000 for this year’s Give Big Campaign!

Programming your donation is easy and can start right now! All you need to do is check out our profile here and schedule the payment for Give Big donating!

Mil Gracias! El Centro de la Raza | Washington Gives (

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations are back!

May 3-4, 2022 – We are THRILLED to invite the Beloved Community to join us to celebrate our culture with us in an amazing outdoor event at our Plaza!

Acompáñenos con su familia a celebrar nuestra cultura en nuestro gran evento! Tendremos variedades de deliciosa comida, ¡música y muchas sorpresas de entretenimiento! Los esperamos!

¡Celebra Nuestra Cultura!
Sábado, 7 de Mayo
10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Plaza Roberto Maestas
1660 S Roberto Maestas Festival St, Seattle, WA 98144

Register and invite your friends!

Art for (Summer) Days with Beacon Arts!

May 14, June 11, July 9, Aug 13, Sept 10-Join us for sunny days filled with art, good company, and people showing love for plants and pop artists in the neighborhood at the Beacon Arts Street Fairs!

May 14 | June 11| July 9 | Aug 13 | Sept 10:00AM- 4:00PM @ Roberto Maestas Festival Street

From Nicaragua to the Embassy of Guatemala

“I give it a ten,” said Fatima Trana de Flores, when she was asked how important El Centro de La Raza is for the Hispanic community.   

Originally and very proudly Nicaraguan, Fatima Trana de Flores was happy to share her story about how El Centro de La Raza helped her interview and land a job at the Embassy of Guatemala. 

Like many immigration stories, she spent several years separated from her husband, as he worked in the US several years before she could join him.  Once she arrived, it took time to adjust to the climate, food, different culture, but the hardest by far was the language barrier.  

When she indicated to her human resource manager where she worked that she wanted to grow professionally, they referred her to El Centro de La Raza to find training opportunities for Spanish-speakers.  Though she had worked in Nicaragua, she definitely appreciated the ability to refresh several work skills she had not used in a while. 

Through El Centro de La Raza, she was able to improve her resume, develop her office skills, practice job interviewing, and find a great fit by attending career fairs.  

Her recommendation? Always study to better yourself as a worker and a person.  She encourages people to study and to find ways to contribute their grain of sand to the economy and development of this country.   

Fatima says her next steps include practicing English on a daily and eventually, she hopes to find work in defense of human rights with a nonprofit or government agency and address gender violence, in particular. We look forward to continuing to see her grow and inspire! 

The health and success of El Centro de la Raza begins with you. Support from a broad base of community members including foundations, individuals, and corporations is critical to our success and we ask that you carefully consider making a personally meaningful gift – it may be the largest gift you have ever made.

Upskilling as a Family

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Monroys

Meet Adriana Monroy, an example of a person who infuses her entire life (and family) with an entrepreneurial spirit!

Originally from Mexico, Adriana and her five children moved to Washington after seventeen years in Michigan.  She discovered El Centro de La Raza and soon after she engaged with several of the programs, including, Bebes Hope, Alma, Unidos en Finance, and our Work Force Development Program.  Soon after empowering herself with knowledge in different areas, she wanted to share with her community and family. She soon introduced her son, Job Monroy, to El Centro de la Raza.

At the height of the pandemic in 2021, Job Monroy graduated. He decided to take a gap year and use the year to learn a trade that would allow him to pay his way through university.  He explored a pre-apprentice program info session we hosted, and learned about opportunities in the maritime, aerospace, and construction industries.

Through this session, he chose to deepen his exploration into the construction industry and connected to the Pre-Apprenticeship Training (PACT) Program with Seattle Colleges and the ANEW Program.  Since then, he was accepted to ANEW’s free 12-week pre-apprenticeship program.

Job is excited to start and learn about a new trade! We love to see families progress together on many fronts!

The health and success of El Centro de la Raza begins with you. Support from a broad base of community members including foundations, individuals, and corporations is critical to our success and we ask that you carefully consider making a personally meaningful gift – it may be the largest gift you have ever made.

How one business navigated the PPP program and the Pandemic

According to the NIH, in early 2020, the number of active businesses dropped in the US by 22%.  Latinx business owner activity dropped by an astounding 32% and women-owned businesses also took disproportional losses of 25%.

Elizabeth Sevilla, Owner of Yayis Service LLC

Like other residential construction businesses, by early 2021, Yayis Service LLC, saw their revenue decline as homeowners postponed projects due to the pandemic and material expenses continued to increase.  After several years of running a successful business, Yayis Service LLC owner, Elizabeth Sevilla, decided to reach out to our Business Opportunity Center Small Business Development (SBD) program to see how she could help her business cope with the pandemic.

To her relief, SBD walked Elizabeth through all of the requirements for eligibility of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a government funded program that provides low interest rates turned into grants through the Small Business Administration.  Through one-on-one conversations, SBD helped her navigate the process, in Spanish.  Together, they completed the application, from documentation gathering to contract signing.  The SBA approved Elizabeth for a $19,400 loan at 1% interest rate.  This allowed Elizabeth to keep her team on and fund payroll and continue her business.  

A photo from a Yayis Service LLC project on

Beyond navigating the process together, the SBD kept in touch with Elizabeth to ensure Yayis Service LLC was keeping records of its spending on eligible expenses, such as payroll.

In January 2022, Elizabeth became eligible to apply for forgiveness of her SBA loan. SBD guided Elizabeth on the forgiveness application process and she was indeed approved for loan forgiveness.  Thanks to the PPP and its forgiveness program, Elizabeth was able apply for a $19,400 loan, apply for forgiveness, and successfully turn her loan into a business grant – meaning no money owed!

The health and success of El Centro de la Raza begins with you. Support from a broad base of community members including foundations, individuals, and corporations is critical to our success and we ask that you carefully consider making a personally meaningful gift – it may be the largest gift you have ever made.

February 2022: Salud in the Community

Vacúnese el 20 de febrero! Get Vaccinated for COVID-19 February 20th!

Charlas En Confianza y En Comunidad resumen cada Martes hasta Marzo!

Acompáñenos cada Martes a las 5pm para recibir la información más actualizada del coronavirus, compartir recursos, sus preocupaciones e identificar soluciones, mientras nos apoyamos uno al otro con confianza y en comunidad.

Aqui tiene el enlace para registrarse a la proxima charla:

Refuerzos de COVID-19 y el Embarazo

Apoyo de FEMA para costos de funerarios para victimas de COVID-19 // FEMA assistance for funeral expenses for COVID-19 victims

February 2022 : Noticias Relevant to Our Community

FAFSA Support

Seattle Promise will be hosting two FAFSA/WASFA Completion Workshops for all Seattle Public Schools students during the month of February. These workshops are for any students/their families who would like to learn about state and federal financial aid applications.

Below, a checklist for the documents needed to successfully complete the FAFSA or WASFA.

Additionally, Seattle Promise will host the Discover Seattle Colleges series, where instructors will share different career streams and trajectories.

Applications for Seattle Promise and Seattle Colleges are due March 1, 2022. To apply or to learn more, click here.

Get Free Citizenship Assistance

February Citizenship Day
e: Saturday, February 26, 2022

Time: 10am-5pm by appointment.
Location: OneAmerica Offices in Seattle 

More information:  To make an appointment please fill out our intake form.

It is important to have all the required documents ready for Citizenship Day. For a full list of required documents, check here . If you have ever been arrested, detained, or have had to appear in court, you will need all the certified court documents and police reports. 

 If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, please feel free to contact us at (206) 926-3924 by call or text. You can also reach us at

Free Tax Preparation until April 21st!

Inquilinos: Tienen derecho a Apoyo Legal para Evitar el Desalojo

Biden Administration Proposes Change to ‘Public Charge’ Rule, Allowing Immigrants More Benefits

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a change to the “public charge” rule that would increase the number of government benefits immigrants can receive without affecting their green card applications. Read More Here

February 2022: Cuentos from Our Work in the Community

Organizing & Training Our Environmental Justice Leaders

Training has begun for El Patio and Plaza Roberto Maestas residents in environmental justice leadership, education and community organizing in the Latino community.

Through this program, Beacon Hill residents are learning how to advocate for better health and environmental outcomes and influence policymakers to protect their community from the disproportional impacts of massive transportation developments in the works.

For context, Beacon Hill is already surrounded by major roadways.  On average, every 90 seconds, an aircraft will fly over Beacon Hill.  70% of aircraft traveling to and from Seattle fly over Beacon Hill. This causes intense noise pollution, which has adverse effects on stress levels, sleep, cardiovascular health, and youth’s learning capabilities. Though they are certainly considered a vertical fenceline community, they are not a fenceline community and are not eligible for mitigation. Additionally, residents of Beacon Hill are predominantly people of color, who already tend to be disproportionately harmed by environmental issues.

Apart from learning to measure air and noise pollution and advocate for bills that address this issue, participants were able to connect with other environmental justice-based organizations such as the nonprofit organization Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC).  Residents learned how other communities are organizing and supported the DRCC’s signature-gathering efforts for their petition on 

Through storytelling, community building, and leadership development, participants are prepared to effectively fight the proposed Sea-Tac Airport Sustainable Air Master Plan (SAMP).  Follow and join our movement against SAMP here:  We Fight For Environmental & Health Justice – El Centro de la Raza

Our Highest Turnout and Certification for New Homebuyers Yet!

In the face of a deepening housing crisis, we are proud to report the highest level of enrollment and certification for our first-time homebuyer workshop of 2022.  A total of 84 participants enrolled, and 42 received a two-year certificate that will grant them access to Washington Housing Finance Commission programs and Down Payment Assistance.

Apart from providing these classes online in English and Spanish at no-cost, our program is unique in providing home loan options for ITIN holders. 

To offer a comprehensive overview of the process, we welcomed a real estate agent and a lender certified by the Washington Housing Finance Commission.  The topics we covered ran the gamut from credit-strengthening and budgeting to title, escrows, home insurance and inspection.

Please share our joy with the future homeowners from our program below:

The health and success of El Centro de la Raza begins with you. Support from a broad base of community members including foundations, individuals, and corporations is critical to our success and we ask that you carefully consider making a personally meaningful gift – it may be the largest gift you have ever made.

Legacy Award Nominations are Open

El Centro de la Raza turns 50 this year! Help us celebrate by nominating someone who is doing important Social Justice work in our community for the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award. The Legacy Awards are our way of honoring of our late founder, Roberto Maestas, who helped organize the 1972 peaceful occupation of the abandoned Beacon Hill school, which later became El Centro de la Raza as we know it today. Roberto Maestas’s life was dedicated to building “Beloved Community” through multi-racial unity. He deeply believed that poverty, racism and social inequity could only be eradicated if people of all races and backgrounds came together to do so.

The 12th Annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award will recognize two individuals who have exemplified Building the Beloved Community through multi-racial unity and working to eliminate poverty, racism and social inequity. We encourage people of all races, ethnicities, ages, and gender identities to apply for this award. 
El Centro de la Raza will celebrate awardees and their contributions by making a $1,000 gift in their name to an organization of their choice.  Award recipients will be recognized at El Centro de la Raza’s 50th Anniversary Building the Beloved Community Gala, which is set to take place on Saturday, October 8, 2022.
Legacy Award applicants can self-nominate or be nominated by someone else. Recipients are asked to attend El Centro de la Raza’s Building the Beloved Community Gala.
Deadline for application submission is Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at 5:00pm Pacific Time. 

Please nominate yourself or someone you know today via our form.

Read about our 2021 honorees, Dr. Estell Williams and Edwin Lindo

The health and success of El Centro de la Raza begins with you. Support from a broad base of community members including foundations, individuals, and corporations is critical to our success and we ask that you carefully consider making a personally meaningful gift – it may be the largest gift you have ever made.