JOHNNY FLORES JR/Coachella Uninc
THERMAL — After six years and $600,000 in contributions, the San Jose Community Learning Center has finally opened its doors in rural Eastern Coachella Valley.
Its mission: to provide a learning space for adults and youth living in the 41 surrounding mobile home parks.
“In the rural areas there aren’t any places for the students and families to meet or help each other out,” said Sister Gabi Williams, the driving force behind the project. “There aren’t any study places within the mobile homes. This is an opportunity for young people to have a place to do their homework.”
Funding for the center, located at 69455 Pierce Street, came primarily from fundraising events such as luncheons and golf tournaments.
The sizeable contributions allowed for the creation of two adjacent spaces. The Bea Main Learning Center, a space for middle and high school students, is fully equipped with laptops and desks for youth to complete assignments. In addition, coordinators will work hand in hand with nearby Desert Mirage High School (DMHS) and other local schools to help keep students on task and offer appropriate assistance with schoolwork.
The Ross Jarrett Community Center will offer health, safety, parenting and language arts classes for adults. Adult classes will begin next month.
Maria Mendez, a sophomore at DMHS, is already noticing the benefits of the new learning center.
“Well right now it’s benefiting me because I get to learn more about English. Before I didn’t know that (the letter) ‘I’ had to be capitalized in a sentence, and now I’m learning little things like this,” said Mendez. “We are writing stories and essays and I can ask for help here.”
Williams, who recently left the Diocese of San Bernardino’s Office of Social Concerns to serve as director of programs at the center, has long been an advocate for change in the rural communities of the Eastern Coachella Valley. This community center is just one part of her overall dream to bring much needed resources to residents in these areas.
“I hope these students finish high school and go on to college and obtain the profession they want,” said Williams. “They don’t have the opportunities out here. This facility helps bring out everything they need to achieve that.”